chapter  1
23 Pages

Sociologists and the survey: potential and pitfalls

WithSara Arber

This chapter demonstrates that survey researchers require sociological imagination, that surveys have contributed much to sociological understanding, and that the secondary analysis of large, primarily government, surveys has untapped potential as a source of sociological insights. The British government Labour Force Survey (LFS) uses Computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) to collect data at the first household interview, with subsequent interviews using Computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI), if the respondent has a telephone and is agreeable. Government surveys are rich sources of data for secondary analysis, since many are underanalyzed, both from a statistical and a theoretical viewpoint. Secondary analysis of government and other large surveys is more akin to primary analysis, because sociological issues can be addressed which were not envisaged by the survey originators. The restricted amount of funding available from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for surveys has been one reason why the number of major British sociological surveys barely reaches double figures.