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Secondary Data Analysis: An Introduction for Psychologists

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Book Detail

Author/Editor(s): Kali H. Trzesniewski, M. Brent Donnellan, Richard E. Lucas
Publication Date: October 14, 2010
ISBN-10: 1433808765
ISBN-13: 978-1433808760
Language: English
Edition: 1
Publisher: American Psychological Association (APA)
Size: 862 KB
Format: pdf

Book Description

The use of secondary data, or existing data that is freely available to researchers who were not involved in the original study, has a long and rich tradition in the social sciences. In recent years, the internet has made secondary datasets readily available at the click of a mouse. And yet, whether due to a lack of methodological training or as part of a broader indifference to alternative data collection strategies, psychologists have been surprisingly slow to utilize these useful resources. Secondary Data Analysis: An Introduction for Psychologists provides students and seasoned researchers alike with an accessible introduction to secondary analysis.

The book is divided into two sections: Part I provides psychologists with a set of accessible methodological primers, including chapters on using short forms of scales; analyzing survey data with complex sampling designs; and dealing with missing data. (Readers are assumed to possess a working knowledge of multivariate analysis.) Chapters in Part II provide compelling examples of secondary data analysis in various kinds of psychological research, including development and aging, behavioral genetics, cross-cultural psychology, and the psychology of political affiliation.

This wide-ranging yet practical book shows how the analysis of secondary data can provide unique and compelling opportunities for advancing psychological science.

About the Author

Kali H. Trzesniewski is an assistant professor of developmental psychology at the University of Western Ontario. Dr. Trzesniewski's research interests are at the intersections of developmental psychology, personality psychology, and social psychology. Her current research is focused on biological and social-cultural influences on the development of the self and self-related processes. To address her research questions, she uses secondary datasets, along with primary data collection.

M. Brent Donnellan is an associate professor of social and personality psychology at Michigan State University. He is currently an associate editor at the Journal of Research in Personality. Dr. Donnellan's research interests are at the intersections of personality psychology, developmental psychology, and psychological assessment and he has analyzed secondary data in several of his publications. His current efforts focus on personality development and the role of individual differences in interpersonal relationships.

Richard E. Lucas is an associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University. His research focuses on the factors that contribute to the stability and change in subjective well-being. He has served as an associate editor for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and is currently editor-in-chief of the Journal of Research in Personality. He is a coauthor of the book Well-Being and Public Policy, which examines the role that well-being measures can play in informing public policy decisions.


Secondary data analysis: an introduction for psychologists delivers what it advertises. The availablility of data which have been already collected, for particular purposes, and which are in a form accessible to other investigators and which can be used to examine and explore other issues and theoretical problems, has made possible the development of an industry. This book is mainly for psychologists as this discipline has, in the past, been less likely than social scientists in the fields of sociology, political science and epidemiology, to consider secondary data analysis. The authors present a number of the arguments for and against the use of secondary data, as against primary data collected by psychologists in laboratory or field conditions and demonstrate the ways in which such analyses can be of benefit. The book contains a number of examples covering different fields of study, for example adult and adolescent development, psycholopathology, cross cultural psychology and political beliefs and actions. It also addresses various methodological problems, for example matters of reliability and validity (chapter 3 is a very good primer on reliability and validity of measurement for students of psychology), problems of complex sampling and issues with missing data. There is a good deal of technical coverage and lots of experience-based problem solving to guide the beginner. But while this book provides a very useful technical and problem oriented set of solutions and topics, it does raise more general and deep issues in the field of psychology and in data management. At several points in the book, in particular in the chapters on cross cultural data and in the study of psychopathology, the authors raise significant methodologicval and epistemological problems that are inherent in any psychological investigation, whether that be with primary or secondary data. In the chapter on psychopathology the authors (Eaton & Krueger) cite, among others, two dicta that need to be heard. These are "Know the data well" and "Think carefully about all data-related decisions". Unless the investigator is aware of and is able to deal with the assumptions, explicit and implicit, that guide the development of measurement and affect the form of data, there is the likelihood of error in inference and the initiation of action. Dealing with someone else's data may make an investigator more attuned to the complexities and foibles of data generation and management, more so than when primary data are involved. The use of secondary data may make these issues less salient, investigators being more trusting than they should be of other people's scientific practices. A reading of this book will be likely to make the intending scientist think more carefully and critically about what they are doing, why and how. All of these things are good to do and this volume, while on the face of things perhaps narrow and specific, actually opens up debate and thought across a broad spectrum of psychological and social scientific inquiry. It is worth a close look.

--J. Michael Innes, Amazon Customer Reviews
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