Sourcing Data for Research Purposes

Data is defined as unorganised statistical facts and figures collected for some specific purposes such as analysis. Research is not all about analysing data and writing reports. Before you can interpret or analyse data for your research, the first step is to have data to analyse. This article will be focused on sourcing data for research purposes.

To start with, there are different sources of data, such as statistical and non-statistical sources. These sources of data are defined along the line of purposes. Statistical sources refer to data collected for official purposes such as census while non-statistical sources are for data collected for administrative purposes and the private sector.

Statistical Sources

Statistical sources are those sources of data collection that are based on the directives of the government. Statistical data is gotten to be used for the state administration but it also serves private researchers and institutions well in their quest for reliable data. Types of statistical sources include statistical survey, census, register and so on.

Statistical Survey

A statistical survey is also known as a sample survey. This is because the sourcing of data using this method is usually done using a sample. Under this method, a sample of data is collected and analysed using statistical methods. It is mostly used to determine the characteristics of a population. This method gives the researcher full control over how the data collection goes but is faulted by the error of generalisation. Leaving some parts of the population out will fault the data as it will not totally reflect the whole population.


Census is one of the most reliable and most used sources of data for many researchers; especially in areas such as social sciences. Census is the opposite of statistical survey as it encompasses all of the population of a country. The gathering of data takes place over a specific reference period and is usually in intervals of five to ten years. This source of data collection is easy to utilise as the data is usually comprehensive. Data for a census is collected using a variety of methods such as mailing questionnaires to respondents, calling them over the phone and so on.


Registers are one of the best sources of data available. Registers are like banks for statistical facts and information. It operates in a mutually beneficial way. Researchers gain access to quality data from registers while registers are compiled from the results of researchers’ works. Registers also serve as a repository of data for different statistical bodies in the country. Apart from the official collation of data into a register by the state, various industries keep registers to document improvements in their fields. Data from registers are usually detailed, comprehensive and reliable.

Non-Statistical Sources

Non-statistical sources are sources of data collection that are created by private and corporate individuals and institutions. The digitization of the economy and the labour market has created more opportunities for tracking and evaluating workforce trends. As important as statistical data is to the proper administration of a state, non-statistical data have provided the basis for many of the technological and business advances experienced in recent years.

This is just one of the ways of categorising sources and methods of data collection. As explained in the previous post on this theme, there are other ways such as primary and secondary sources of data as well as quantitative and qualitative data collection methods.

Written by Aisha Yusuf for ResearchRound

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