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By Stephen Gorard

This smart scheme builds on Gorard's prior publication, Quantitative equipment in academic examine. He has revised the unique publication within the gentle of expertise and suggestions, and has transformed it in order that it contains extra social technological know-how examples. 4 chapters are totally new.

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It can be used to assess the quality of an achieved sample by providing some background figures for the population. These figures can then be used to re-weight the sample if there is clear bias in its composition (see Chapter Four). Contextual secondary data can also be used to show that a problem exists that needs to be addressed using other techniques, and to begin to describe the nature of that problem (Gorard 2002a). If you intend investigating the causes of increasing crime in city centres or the reasons for boys' under-achievement at school, for example, you need to show via secondary data that these problems actually exist (and many such moral panics are based on misreading of the existing data).

A further problem is that we generally have no agreed methods for dealing with these large and often complex secondary datasets (Gorard and Taylor 2002a). It means that many of those researchers actually using secondary data today are 'pioneers' of one kind of analysis or another. There are currently debates between them over the precise way to measure trends over time, differences between places and how to deal with hierarchical data, for example. These debates need to be pursued with vigour so that relatively standard protocols can be produced for general researchers to use when simply wishing to conduct a 'smash and grab' on existing data in preparation for a new study.

In fact none of the members felt able to attend the dissemination organized for them by the Statistics Division of the Welsh Office. It was almost as though they did not want to hear what we had to say! This chapter has looked at some of the advantages and potential problems in using secondary data. For further discussion of these 28 Quantitative Methods in Social Science points try reading Dale et al. (1988) or May (1997). The next chapter continues by examining some simple methods for analysing secondary data, as an introduction to the world of descriptive statistics.

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