Secondary data analysis to answer questions in human biology

Asher Y. Rosinger, Gillian Ice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Despite a growing number of publicly available datasets, the use of these datasets for secondary analyses in human biology is less common compared with other fields. Secondary analysis of existing data offers an opportunity for human biologists to ask unique questions through an evolutionary and biocultural lens, allowing for an analysis of cultural and structural nuances that affect health. Leveraging publicly available datasets for human biology research is a way for students and established researchers to complement their data collection, use existing data for master's and doctoral theses, pilot test questions, and use existing data to answer interesting new questions or explore questions at the population level. Here we describe where publicly available data are stored, highlighting some data repositories and how to access them. We then discuss how to decide which dataset is right, depending on the research question. Next, we describe steps to construct datasets, analytical considerations and methodological challenges, best practices, and limitations depending on the structure of the study. We close by highlighting a number of publicly available datasets that have been used by human biologists and other datasets that may be of interest to the community, including research that has been conducted on some example datasets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23232
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics


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