|Module 1: Producing Data
3. Sources of data > 3.1. Use of available data
ii. Pre-existing data
Pre-existing data are data that have been produced in the past for some specific purpose. For example, the police and other authorities keep data on the types and frequencies of the various categories of crimes reported to them.
It can be costly to produce new data, so perhaps pre-existing data from a previous specific study can be used to answer current questions. Using available data, however, does require caution. Some reasons to be cautious when using available data include:
- The available data may have been drawn from a population which is not identical with the population now under study.
- The available data may have been chosen using a sampling method not appropriate for the current study.
- We may not be sure whether all the available data has been presented for us – perhaps some was omitted from the previous study (possibly even for valid reasons) and we don't know this.
- The reporting of available data may be in categories which do not exactly match the purposes of the current study.
|Test your knowledge|
How might crime records be misleading? Click on the responses you think are correct.
a) Not all crimes are reported.
b) There is too much data available.
c) The way that crimes are classified.
d) Records are based on anecdotes.
Click here for answers
Primary and secondary data
Available data can be classified as:
a) primary data, and
b) secondary data.
As far as possible, users of secondary data should check the integrity of the quoted secondary data. Secondary data may have been used in a selective way to suit the purposes of a study at hand. Unfortunately, secondary data can even be used in a dishonest or inaccurate way not consistent with the intent of the primary data.