Secondary data analysis

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"Asking new questions of old data"

Research data are collected across a range of social science disciplines using a variety of research approaches and methods. Social surveys and interviewing projects represent the most common methods, but primary data can also be gathered from fieldwork observation, diaries, self-completion questionnaires and other activities. Administrative and routine business data collected in the course of government activities also represent a rich source of statistical information.

These resources represent a rich and unique stock of material that can be reanalysed, reworked, used for new analyses, and compared or combined with contemporary data.

In time, archived data become historically important research materials. Using existing data also enables research where the required data may be expensive, difficult or impossible to collect, for example in the case of global administrative data, large-scale surveys or historic data.

The ESRC has recently invested in promoting secondary analysis by launching its Secondary Analysis Data Initiative (SDAI). The aim is to deliver high-impact policy and practitioner-relevant research through the deeper exploitation of major data resources created by ESRC and other agencies.

In this section we provide some thoughts and pointers to articles about how data can be reused.

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