Strengths and limitations of secondary data sources | NURS 8310 – Epidemiology and Population Health | Walden University


In this information age, where data are readily accessible and there is both a great demand for accelerated research projects and strict limitations on research funding, using existing data makes sense. Data used in this way are called secondary data; they come in many forms and contain information on just about anything—depending on who collected the information in the first place, and why.

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As a health professional, you have access to a wide range of secondary data sources, including government agencies (such as, the Census Bureau or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and private sources, including local health service providers. Global and international data are available from familiar sources, such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations. In addition, nearly every nation maintains statistics on social, economic, and environmental indicators, which contain a wealth of health information.

As a member of the Walden community, you have access to the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), the world’s largest archival database of secondary data. You also have access to the Social Change Impact Report (SCIR) data sets—a Walden-owned database. There are also a number of sources and tutorials available to you through Walden’s Office of Research and Doctoral Quality.

No matter the topic—be it vaccination rates, women’s access to mammography, or chronic lung disease—you can probably find an existing secondary data source related to the specific population health problem you are investigating. The next steps are to identify the variables in the data source that you would need to analyze to examine the association of interest and to assess the validity of the data source. For this Assignment, you delve into these issues in greater detail. 

To prepare:

  • Consider a variety of population health problems and then select one of professional interest on which to focus for this Assignment.
  • Explore three data sources (data sets) presented in the Learning Resources that could aid you in describing the population and magnitude of the problem you selected. Consider the strengths and limitations of each data source.

The Assignment

In 3–4 pages (not including title page and references), analyze the data sources you selected by addressing the following:

  • Briefly identify the population health problem you selected.
  • Identify each data set you selected.
  • Identify the variables in each data set you would need to examine the association of interest.
  • Assess the validity of each data set. Has it been used for prior studies/publications?
  • Explain challenges you might face as a researcher in identifying a proper data set or securing permission to use it.