All data archives have three primary functions: the collection, storage, and preservation of data (usually in the form of magnetic tapes); the dissemination of data within the national social science community and across international boundaries; and the development of facilities and techniques of analysis to encourage the widest and most intensive possible use of data. Different archives attach different degrees of importance to these objectives: some operate a broad acquisition policy whereas others are more selective; some make access to the data-sets easy by publishing detailed catalogues of holdings; others specialize in secondary analysis conducted by in-house researchers.
The major advantage of data archives is that they constitute a rich source of inexpensive and publicly available information. However, unless the data-sets held by the archive are fully documented (with complete and detailed codebooks, for example), then the researcher engaged in secondary analysis may be unaware of important limitations on how the original information was collected and how it may legitimately be used.
"data archive." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/data-archive
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