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Social Sci LibreTexts

2.2E: Use of Existing Sources

  • Page ID
    7922
  • [ "article:topic" ]

    Studying existing sources collected by other researchers is an essential part of research in the social sciences.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Explain how the use of existing sources can benefit researchers

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • Archival research is the study of existing sources. Without archival research, any research project is necessarily incomplete.
    • The study of sources collected by someone other than the researcher is known as archival research or secondary data research.
    • The importance of archival or secondary data research is two-fold. By studying texts related to their topics, researchers gain a strong foundation on which to base their work. Secondly, this kind of study is necessary in the development of their central research question.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • secondary data: Secondary data is data collected by someone other than the user. Common sources of secondary data for social science include censuses, organizational records, and data collected through qualitative methodologies or qualitative research.
    • Archival research: An archive is a way of sorting and organizing older documents, whether it be digitally (photographs online, e-mails, etc.) or manually (putting it in folders, photo albums, etc.). Archiving is one part of the curating process which is typically carried out by a curator.
    • primary data: Data that has been compiled for a specific purpose, and has not been collated or merged with others.

    Using Existing Sources

    The study of sources collected by someone other than the researcher, also known as archival research or secondary data research, is an essential part of sociology. In archival research or secondary research, the focus is not on collecting new data but on studying existing texts.

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    Existing Sources: While some sociologists spend time in the field conducting surveys or observing participants, others spend most of their research time in libraries, using existing sources for their research.

    By studying texts related to their topics, researchers gain a strong foundation on which to base their work. Furthermore, this kind of study is necessary for the development of their central research question. Without a thorough understanding of the research that has already been done, it is impossible to know what a meaningful and relevant research question is, much less how to position and frame research within the context of the field as a whole.

    Types of Existing Sources

    Common sources of secondary data for social science include censuses, organizational records, field notes, semi-structured and structured interviews, and other forms of data collected through quantitative methods or qualitative research. These methods are considered non-reactive, because the people do not know they are involved in a study. Common sources differ from primary data. Primary data, by contrast, are collected by the investigator conducting the research.

    Researchers use secondary analysis for several reasons. The primary reason is that secondary data analysis saves time that would otherwise be spent collecting data. In the case of quantitative data, secondary analysis provides larger and higher-quality databases that would be unfeasible for any individual researcher to collect on his own. In addition, analysts of social and economic change consider secondary data essential, since it is impossible to conduct a new survey that can adequately capture past change and developments.

     

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