'examine the advantages for sociologists using official statistics within their research'
Official statistics are statistics which are collected by the government and other official bodies and these can be hard statistics such as the birth and death rates or soft statistics such as crime records. These are largely used by positivists within sociology as they are able to meet the main aims of their methodological perspective which are reliability and representativeness.
These statistics are readily available which thus makes them a cheap and easy alternative to another method; they are generally collected on large scales and thus cover the entire population. This means that they are representative and so can be used to make assumptions about a whole population whilst the method in which they are collected-a standardized way in which rigorous set procedures have to be followed when collecting and recording the information allows another researcher to collect the information in the same way to obtain similar results and this the research is high in reliability. These advantages then allow patterns and trends to be identified, as the information is proceed qualitatively, which allows cause and effect relationships to be identified. This is advantageous when in comparison to other research methods in which it may be difficult to pinpoint exact variables causing an effect.
However antipositivists argue that these statistics are a social construct and thus are able to be manipulated to produce desirable results, for example the government often changes the definition of poverty so that it appears that the number of people in poverty is decreasing and hence they appear successful. This means that the research may not be useful to the researcher as the statistics may have different definitions or have been created for a different purpose to that which the researcher is interested in which thus undermines the importance and value that can be placed on the data. In addition to this the dark figure of crime which particularly affects soft statistics may mean that not all figures are recorded or reported which thus reduces the validity of the data as it fails to produce a genuine picture of what is actually happening.
Despite this official statistics are a detached way of obtaining information and so whilst the interpretation of the researcher may vary; their feelings and thoughts do not affect the results of the data as they remain unbiased. This makes them easily comparable to other research methods and so can be used to check whether data is reliable or valid.
Overall this method shows that each method has its strengths and weaknesses and that one way to overcome these is to adopt a triangulatory approach. This has successfully been used by Barker and Willis who used a combination of observations, interviews and questionnaires in their research. This allows a combination of qualitative and quantative information to be obtained and thus enables the limitations of one experiment to be compensated for by another.
My teacher has given us no practice questions or even told us how to structure the essay so im just completely guessing here, what do you think this would score out of 20?
I'm aiming for an A/B but feel this would get around 2 marks so any help would be brilliant