The State of Data: Reflections on Using 'BIG' and Administrative Data Sources in Social Research



Hunter S & Shapira M (2023) The State of Data: Reflections on Using 'BIG' and Administrative Data Sources in Social Research. Journal of Sociology: Bulletin of Yerevan University, 13 (2), Art. No.: 36. https://doi.org/10.46991/BYSU%3AF/2022.13.2.028

Recent computing power and storage advancements have meant more data are being collected and stored. Referred to as 'Big data', these data sources offer researchers myriad opportunities to make observations about the social world. These data can be massive, provide insight into whole populations rather than just a sample, and be used to analyse social behaviour in real time. Administrative data, a subcategory under the big data umbrella, also offers researchers abundant opportunities to conduct highly relevant research in many areas, including sociology, social policy, education, health studies and many more. This paper offers reflections on social research during the digital age by examining different forms of data, both 'big' and 'small', and their associated advantages and disadvantages. The paper concludes by suggesting that although big data has some promising elements, it also comes with some limitations and will not replace 'traditional' social surveys. And yet, when used in conjunction with social surveys, appropriately and ethically, big data could offer the researchers additional valuable insights.

social research; sociology; big data; administrative data; quantitative data analysis; methodology

Journal of Sociology: Bulletin of Yerevan University: Volume 13, Issue 2

FundersThe British Academy
Publication date30/04/2023
Date accepted by journal19/11/2022

People (2)


Mr Scot Hunter

Mr Scot Hunter

Research Assistant, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology

Dr Marina Shapira

Dr Marina Shapira

Associate Professor, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology

Projects (1)