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Once you've determined that your assignment requires you to work with data, here are some suggestions for starting the project. This tutorial provides strategies for thinking about data and tips for finding datasets. How do I find data? title slide
Select a topic and work toward defining your research question. When working on database projects, It's helpful to ask four key questions: what, who, where and when. For example, to investigate the topic of political polarization, you need to make a few decisions. What kind of polarization are you investigating? Are you interested in polarization of the general public? Polarization in selected red and blue states or polarization in Congress? Who collects the data you need? Some candidates include government agencies, academic researchers, businesses, nonprofits and intergovernmental or non governmental organizations. What time period will you investigate? You may be interested in finding out how long polarization has been an issue or you may want to look at a shorter period of time. When can be tricky. It takes time to collect and publish data. So in some cases, the most current data sets can be several years old. Also, data sets gathered this year may not have been collected 10, 20 or 50 years ago. Investigate the data sets available in earlier years before proceeding. Is there a geographic component to your research project? Are you looking for a national, regional, state or local data? Slides read in audio with related icons.
The library's discipline based research guides provide a good starting point for identifying resources. Northeastern library website homepage. The Research Guides option in the main grid menu is highlighted.
Many library research guides provide access to data and statistical resources to start our investigation of political polarization in the U.S. population. We'll check the data, statistics and polls tab on the Political Science Guide. Screen capture of the Data / Statistics / Polls page on the Political Science research guide. Key Data and Polling Resources box, and the Data / Statistics / Polls option in the menu are highlighted in turn.
Scholarly articles often contain reference to datasets and polls. In this library database, search for materials and political polarization we've added two terms, data and polling to find scholarly articles with this type of content. Note that we've type data or polling to indicate that we're interested in articles on polarization with data or polling or both. EBSCO search box with political polarization in the first field and data OR polling in the second.
In this example, a scholarly article on political polarization references the General Social Survey, a recurring survey produced by the National Opinion Research Center. Select views of the journal article, including the journal name (Social Science Quarterly SSQ Published by Wiley-Blackwell for the Southwestern Social Science Association) and article title (Partisan Joiners: Associational Membership and Political Polarization in the United States (1974-2004)) and an excerpt from the article that includes information about where the data came from (I use the General Social Survey’s consistent information about associational participation in 16 different types of organizations over a time period of 30 years, from 1974-1994 and in 2004.)
Identify datasets from tables and charts. In this example, taken from the statistical abstract of the United States, we are directed to the American National Election Survey for additional detail. Table 404. Democratic and Republication Percentages of Two-Party Presidential Vote by Selected Characteristics of Voters: 2004 and 2008. Source text below table is highlighted.
Identify datasets through data archives. This is a selective list of archives, consult faculty members, researchers and librarians for help in locating additional data sets and data archives.
  • ICPSR (Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research)
  • National Science Foundation Data
  • Centers for Disease Control
  • National Archive of Data on Arts and Culture
  • United Nations Data
This tutorial has focused on tips for finding data to support your research. If you need further information, please use one of our Ask a Librarian services. Closing Slide: Ask a Librarian