Official Statistics

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By sameeha98
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Sociologists can use a wide range of methods and sources to study crime and official statistics can be an important source of information about crime. Although official statistics are often heavily criticised by sociologists they provide a potentially useful source of secondary data, if used cautiously.

Official statistics have a number of apparent advantages to the sociological researcher. Firstly, they are relatively cheap and readily available. Government statistics are published annually; they provide data on crime across the whole of the UK and also provide insight into regional differences in crime. As such, official statistics can thus be regarded as providing a good starting point for researchers. Also, official statistics enable sociologists to make comparisons over time and between different parts of the country and between different types of area, e.g. rural/urban. For positivist sociologists (following Durkheim’s method), official crime statistics can be seen as providing a measure of crime which is representative, reliable and valid. Official statistics thus provide a true picture of the extent and nature of crime.

Of course, those who support the use of official statistics – such as Roger Matthews and many other sociologists interested in influencing policy would recognise that crime statistics can be heavily criticised. However, those supporting the use of official statistics argue that the deficiencies of official statistics can be minimized by using self-report studies and victim surveys. The government conducted British Crime Survey (BCS), for example, is an annual survey of people who have been victims of crime. By comparing this source with other official statistics, a more accurate estimate of the real rate of crime can be achieved. This is a form of triangulating – use several sources or methods to investigate a topic.…...

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