Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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Official statistics

core definition

Official statistics are quantitative data published by government agencies or other public bodies including international organisations.

explanatory context

They provide information on all major areas of life, including economic, health, business, education, social and environmental issues.


Official statistics are intended to information on economic and social development accessible to the public. However, there is so much official statistics that to make sense of them requires considerable expertise in navigating through the available data and exploring trends and development. In many countries, the agencies that produce the statistics attempt make accessible summaries of their import. Howver, it is debateable as to whether these analyses are 'biased' to the policies of the government.


Official Statistics are a useful resource for research and in many countries there are internet 'portals' that provide access to, or information on, the statistics publsihed by government. In the UK, for example, there is the Office for National Statistics (accessed 11 June 2019).


There are a lot of statistics available in many countries. The DATA.GOV.UK site, for example stated (in 2013) 'There are over 9,000 datasets available, from all central government departments and a number of other public sector bodies and local authorities. Is data just public information? Not really. From, you can access the raw data driving government forward. This can then be used by people to build useful applications that help society, or investigate how effective policy changes have been over time.'


In the UK, it is the Government Statistical Service (GSS), headed by the National Statistician, which is a decentralised professional community spread across most UK government departments and devolved administrations, that produces National Statistics and other official statistics, analysis, interpretation and provides statistical advice to improve understanding and help decision-making (see UK Statistics Authority for details (accessed 11 June 2019). About 80 per cent of official statistics produced by the GSS are categorised as National Statistics. National Statistics designation signifies that they are produced in accordance with a professional Code of Practice. Section 6 of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 provides that Government ministers can determine that some or all of the statistics produced by a range of non-Crown bodies should also be brought into the scope of 'official statistics' and come within the remit of the UK Statistics Authority. These bodies must be listed in secondary legislation. As of March 2013, ministers have made five such orders. For example, On 1 April 2009 Arts Council England Research and Data (accessed 11 June 2019) became a provider of official statistics under the extended scope of the Statistics and Registration Act 2008.

At a European Union level, Eurostat (accessed 18 March 2013) is the Statistical Office of the European Communities. Eurostat is the statistical office of the European Union situated in Luxembourg. Its task is to provide the European Union with statistics at European level that enable comparisons between countries and regions. The European Statistics Code of Practice sets the standard for developing, producing and disseminating European statistics.


In the United States, where the term official statistics does not tend to be used, government statistics are accessible, for example, via the website (accessed 11 June 2019).

analytical review

associated issues


related areas

See also

Researching the Real World Section 7.4



copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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