Skip to main content

Statistics and Datasets: Finding and using datasets

A guide on who collects statistics and datasets and where to find statistics and datasets

Data? Datasets? Statistics?

So what's the difference?
 
Data - usually numbers or plain text and provide all the collected variables and can be readily manipulated.

Datasets - groupings of data collected and arranged in a set manner.

Statistics - pre-prepared, aggregated data available in a table or as a visualisation.

Secondary data analysis eBooks

Introduction to secondary datasets

When a dataset has been created by another researcher or group, it is classed as secondary data.

There are benefits and drawbacks with using secondary data.

The benefits of locating and using good secondary data include:

  1. Saving time - because the research is already done, you will not have to do it yourself
  2. Larger scope - the initial research may have been done by an organisation with greater resources and scope than that of an individual researcher

However, in using the data of others you can expose yourself to the following risks:

  1. Validity/quality - without available and thorough documentation of the methodology of the initial research, it can be hard to to know how valid the data is
  2. Objective creep - when the data found doesn't actually match your needs, there can be a risk of shifting your initial research goals to save time and money

Before using secondary data, researchers are advised to clearly define their Research Question and Unit of Analysis.

Open Data

Over the last two decades there has been a growing movement seeking to increase the availability of data (particularly government-funded data) and to decrease the restrictions on what people can do with that data. This Open Data movement expects benefits such as improved science and economic activity, boost transparency of public action, increased citizen participation, and develop greater faith in institutions both academic and political.

The Australian Government has adopted the principles of Open Data and in 2015 committed to the open provision of government data in the Australian Government Public Data Policy Statement. The primary provision channel for much of this data is through data.gov.au.

Other nations have also committed to similar ideals through a variety of multinational agreements such as the Open Government Partnership.

Using secondary data in your research (video)