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Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts (1st edn)

Jean-Frédéric Morin, Christian Olsson, and Ece Özlem Atikcan
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date: 16 April 2024

p. 26Big Datalocked

p. 26Big Datalocked

  • Yannick Dufresne
  •  and Brittany I. Davidson


This chapter assesses big data. Within the social sciences, big data could refer to an emerging field of research that brings together academics from a variety of disciplines using and developing tools to widen perspective, to utilize latent data sets, as well as for the generation of new data. Another way to define big data in the social sciences refers to data corresponding to at least one of the three s of big data: volume, variety, or velocity.. These characteristics are widely used by researchers attempting to define and distinguish new types of data from conventional ones. However, there are a number of ethical and consent issues with big data analytics. For example, many studies across the social sciences utilize big data from the web, from social media, online communities, and the darknet, where there is a question as to whether users provided consent to the reuse of their posts, profiles, or other data shared when they signed up, knowing their profiles and information would be public. This has led to a number of issues regarding algorithms making decisions that cannot be explained. The chapter then considers the opportunities and pitfalls that come along with big data.

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