• Summary
  • Overview
  • Key Readings

One central and enduring image of the social science researcher is of an individual who commits a great deal of time to collecting original, primary data from a field of enquiry. This approach is often underpinned by a sincerely held belief that key research questions can only be explored by the collection of ever new, and ever greater amounts of data, or that already existing data are insufficient for researchers to test their ideas. Yet such an approach to social science research can be problematic not least because the collection of primary data can be an expensive, time-consuming, and even wasteful approach to social enquiry.

Secondary analysis can serve many purposes, as well as being a valid approach in its own right. However, despite its widespread ...

Editor's Introduction: Secondary Sources and Secondary Analysis

The secondary analysis of data is a key aspect of social science that has been central to the research agenda since the 1940s onwards. Classic examples include C Wright Mills' trilogy on American society in the mid-twentieth century where he utilised, to great effect, secondary data – analyses of business records, newspaper articles, company reports and official statistics (see Mills 1948, 1951 and 1956). Alternatively there are the numerous considerations of national census data that have offered unique insight into the changing nature of societies and populations since the early 1800s (see, for example, Longino 1990; Christopher 1992; Goodkind 2004; Danø et al 2004; Garrett et al 2006). More recently there has been a renewed interest in longitudinal ...

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