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Sociology   >   Social Research: Methods

Using Official Statistics

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Social Research: Methods

In this course, Professor Tim May (University of Sheffield) explores several different methods commonly used in social research and outlines how they are applied in practice. In the first lecture, we look at official statistics, the ways in which they are important for researchers, and debates around their trustworthiness as factual representations of society. In the second lecture, we introduce surveys and how they are constructed. In the third lecture, we consider three types of interview – the structured, the semi-structured and the unstructured/focused. Next, we think about observation, both participant and non-participant, and examine some of the practical and ethical issues associated with it as a method. In the fifth and final lecture, we briefly survey some other important social research methods – documentary research, case studies, digital research, and comparative analysis.

Using Official Statistics

In this lecture, we think about the use of official statistics in social research, focusing in particular on: (i) their importance as often the only source of country-wide data about populations; (ii) the more critical view that official statistics do not provide objective knowledge about society, but rather show how governments construct facts; (iii) crime data as an example of this, as we see that the statistics are not objective reflections of reality, but are distorted by the processes of reporting by the public, police recording, and prosecution; (iv) victim self-reporting studies as an important corrective to official crime statistics.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

May, T. (2022, January 26). Social Research: Methods - Using Official Statistics [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

May, T. "Social Research: Methods – Using Official Statistics." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Jan 2022,

Image Credits


Prof.  Tim May

Prof. Tim May

Cardiff University