Using Government Records for Research

Government records are very useful secondary source in the research. They provide large data that is otherwise cumbersome for the researcher to collect. Each of the government department collect data through census or other research that is often available for the researchers. For example, government departments like housing, social security, electoral statistics, tax records etc provide detailed statistics to the researcher.

The census records are the biggest source of information regarding any population. Government conducts census on regular intervals to collect data about the population. They use it to know the demographic features of the population. But it also provides a good way to know what kind of services the population need and how to fulfill the gaps in services. On the other hand, the researchers use census information to know about some population characteristics that are the requirement of their research. Therefore, census is the most useful government records that can help in research.

Benefits of government records

The benefits of government records are many because it is a big data that is otherwise impossible for the researcher to collect or know

  1. Census provides most reliable information about the population. It is a set of data that is collected using very organized methods. Therefore, its credibility is higher than other sources.
  2. It is time-saving and cost-efficient to use government records in research. Because it reduces a lot of work that is otherwise impossible.
  3. Government collects data in various fields and checks the accuracy of the data. Therefore, the researcher does not have the responsibility to conduct accuracy checks for it.
  4. Also government covers each segment of the population. Some segments of the population may not respond to a researcher or any other organization to provide information.
  5. Sometimes the researchers use these records in the research to enrich the findings of their research. This gives more weight to the findings of the research study. It means that even if the researcher has primarily used primary data in the research it could further be enriched with the use of this secondary data.
  6. Government records can also help the researcher in designing the research methodology. The demographic data in the census can help locate the type of population to address the research.
  7. Most countries conduct data collection on routine basis, therefore, their records are up-to-date and are highly representative of the population.

Problems with government records

The main problem that can occur with using government records are as follows

  1. The type of data you need for your research is not available.
  2. It is not possible to access the data and you need specific permissions that are not possible for you to obtain.
  3. The country did not conduct the census in the past few years and the information available is obsolete. Although most developed countries conduct census on regular basis therefore this problem can occur in under-developed countries.
  4. In some countries where war or other similar conditions are going on it is not possible to have government records.

In general, some of the problems and benefits of using government records are the same as with any other sources of secondary data. Therefore, the way to solve these problems are also same. There are some ways you can use to check the validity and reliability of the data from government record. Some of the most common ways to evaluate the data include methodology of data collection, accuracy, period of data collection, purpose for which it was collected and the content of the data. These techniques are the same as you use to evaluate other type of secondary sources while using in your research.

In addition, if you are using both primary data and secondary data you always have an edge because both support and enrich your research.

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