Using government records for research

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SAGE Research Methods Cases


Governments routinely collect raw data related to multiple policy areas. A researcher can use these collected data to help address a variety of research questions in political science and public policy. This case study highlights the pros and cons of using government data. It details a method for researchers to find and access government data despite some of the complexities of requesting records. Furthermore, it highlights some of the barriers to record collection successfully. Finally, it outlines the steps to be taken to request government records for research. The case study uses examples from completed research that used government records from New Jersey municipalities to evaluate the use of police force before and after the implementation of a policy prohibiting racially influenced policing. This case study would be of particular interest to any student who wants to learn how government records could be leveraged to answer a research question.