Reusing quantitative data

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"Re-using data to answer new questions"


The UK has a long tradition of secondary analysis which has been enabled and championed by the UK Data Archive and associated services since 1967.

Re-using existing data has some major advantages:

  • data sources can be interrogated to explore new questions or to use new methods
  • much of the UK Data Service contains larger sample sizes of high quality data than most researchers could realistically produce themselves, saving time and resources
  • researchers can assess change across time using data collected at the time from representative samples

Our quantitative data collection includes population census, government surveys and other large scale and/or longitudinal surveys.

The service also provides resources to ensure that you are equipped to avoid potential pitfalls in using pre-existing data.

Interpreting data correctly

Users of secondary data are seldom involved in the data collection process so you will need to spend some time exploring associated documentation. This will help you to understand how the data were collected, from whom and what was done with it after data collection.

We provide codebooks and survey instruments for data. In most cases you will find these in the catalogue entry and data download.

See understanding your data to learn more.

Behaving ethically

While the issues of obtaining access to research subjects are removed by obtaining data from a service like the UK Data Service, you are still required to behave ethically when using the data.

You will typically access datasets from the service under licence, which imposes some conditions on your use. These conditions are there in order to ensure that the data can be used to their best effect, whilst meeting promises of confidentiality made to the data subjects.

See our data access policy to learn more.

Ensuring the suitability of the research data

Most users need to do some data manipulation in order to structure their chosen dataset into a form appropriate for analysis.

We provide guides to our tools and to key software packages as a resource for users who are unfamiliar with this process.

See our guides to learn more.

Understanding your data

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