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Starting Your Search
To search for data effectively, define what it is you need to find - not just the topic of your search, but what kind of information you need for your research. This page guides you to some of the questions you should ask yourself as you get started with your data search.
Key questions to ask
What: What kind of topic or phenomenon are you studying?
- Are you searching for people, organizations, commodities, and/or things?
Where: What geographical area are you studying?
- Are you searching for information on a broad scale (e.g. country or state) or a more granular one (e.g. voting districts or neighborhoods)?
When: What time frame(s) are you interested in?
- Bear in mind that there is often a lag before this type of information becomes available; subsequently the most current statistics can be several years old.
- Remember...more data are collected each year! Datasets gathered this year may not have been collected 10, 20, or 50 years ago. If you're looking for time series, investigate the datasets available in earlier years before proceeding.
Who: Who would be likely to collect data and generate statistics on your topic? Some candidates might be:
- Government agencies
- Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
- Academic research projects
- Private sector
How: How were the data collected/organized?
- Time series
- Longitudinal (panel)
- Cross-sectional survey
As with most scholarly research, your topic may need to be defined flexibly enough to fit the information available to study it.
The Reference Guide to Data Sources
The Reference Guide to Data Sources by
Publication Date: 2014-06-01
This is a concise source book offering concentrated coverage of data sources for frequently researched subjects such as agriculture, the earth sciences, economics, energy, political science, and transportation. Entries include descriptive annotations, and much of the data can be found free online. Includes information on statistical datasets and how to understand and make use of them;