Home Research Guides Finding Data and Statistics
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Finding Data and Statistics


Finding Data and Statistics

Strategy 1: Search in Data Archives and Repositories

Data archives and repositories either host data directly or offer a list of sources to find data research projects.

These archives and repositories can be cross-disciplinary, discipline-specific, or located on college/university websites.

Examples include:

Strategy 2: Identify Statistics that can lead to Data

Finding statistical figures, analyses, and visualizations can also lead to data sources by examining citations in published or non-published works.

You can also search for statistics using Google Images and track the image back to the source. Ask yourself:

  • Where does the statistic you found come from?
  • Who created the statistic/visualization?

Strategy 3: Identify Potential Producers or Creators

Considering who may produce or create data can help you create an effective search strategy.

When looking for data consider:

  • Who (person, group, agency, etc.) might collect these types of data?
  • Who (person, group, agency, etc.) might publish these types of data?

Examples include:

  • Individuals or groups of researchers
  • Colleges, universities, research organizations
  • Public and/or private companies
  • Non-governmental organizations (foundations, think-tanks, charities, non-profits)
  • U.S. government agencies, international government agencies, state and/or local government agencies

Once you have identified a producer or creator, use a search engine to check if they’ve made the data you need available online.

Strategy 4: Search in Published Literature

Data are often linked directly to, or cited in in discipline-specific research publications.

Consider searching for research studies utilizing either primary or secondary analyses to see if the data are publicly available; a good place to start is to search in NDSU's Library Databases.

You can also contact the author(s) and see if they would be willing to share their data with you.

Strategy 1: Conduct Targeted Online Searches

Identify keywords for your search and enter them into a search engine followed by ‘statistics’.

  • If your search isn't successful, think of synonyms for your keywords and try searching again.

You can also limit your search to government or educational websites by following your search terms with ‘site:.gov’ or ‘site:.edu’ respectively.

You can also conduct a Google Image search for your topic and if you find a graph, map, or chart of the information you want, click the image to identify the source.

Strategy 2: Identify Potential Producers or Creators

Considering who may produce or create statistics can help you create an effective search strategy.

When looking for statistics consider:

  • Who (person, group, agency, etc.) might collect these types of statistics?
  • Who (person, group, agency, etc.) might publish these types of statistics?

Examples include:

  • Individuals or groups of researchers
  • Colleges, universities, research organizations
  • Public and/or private companies
  • Non-governmental organizations (foundations, think-tanks, charities, non-profits)
  • U.S. government agencies, international government agencies, state and/or local government agencies

Once you have identified a producer or creator, use a search engine to check if they’ve made the statistics you need available online.

Strategy 3: Search in Published Literature

Consider searching for research studies that may utilize the type of statistics you need; a good place to start is to search in NDSU's Library Databases, identify a statistic of interest, and track the citation back to the source.


Evaluating and Citing Data and Statistics

Use the questions below to guide you through the data and statistics evaluation process.

Who created, collected, or produced the data or statistics?

  • Consider whether you can answer this question and track the data or statistics to the original source, the potential biases or conflicting interests of the creator, as well as the purpose of the data or statistics.

Do the data or statistics fit your needs?

  • Knowing whether you need a large data set to conduct a statistical analysis for a course, data on a specific topic to back-up or refute a hypothesis for an assignment, or statistics to support a larger argument will change the types of data/statistics you are looking for and whether or not what you've found meets your needs.

How was the data collected or the statistics generated?

  • Consider the methodology or strategies used when the source collected the data or generated the statistics.

Does the codebook provide sufficient documentation?

  • It is important to find data or statistics that contain detailed documentation and/or codebooks which describe methodology, variables, etc.
  • When working with raw data in statistical programs (such as Excel, SPSS, SAS, R, etc.) the documentation and/or codebooks can be the difference between having data that you can use and analyze, and data that cannot be understood.
  • Depending on your subject area, different terms might be used to describe different concepts, so knowing exactly what the statistics describes will help you make stronger connections to your argument.

Are the data or statistical visualizations (such as charts, graphs, maps, etc.) misleading?

  • For example, consider whether the x and y axes are labeled at an appropriate scale for the data, if the distances between each point on the axis are equal, or if the y-axis starts at zero.

When using data and statistics it is important to provide a citation to acknowledge the creator/producer and to point others to the resource.

Citations for data sets and statistics often include components similar to other types of citations:

  • Creator/Producer/Author
  • Title of resource
  • Publisher or the archive/repository where the resource is held
  • Version or edition
  • Access information (often a DOI or URL)

Below are resources for citing sources in AMA, APA, Chicago, and MLA.

For additional style guides, please visit the NDSU Center for Writers' website.

AMA (American Medical Association)

AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors, Main Library Reference -- 1st Floor: R119 .A533 2007

APA (American Psychological Association)

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Main Library Reference -- 1st Floor: BF76.7 .P83 2010

Chicago Manual of Style

The Chicago Manual of Style, Main Library Reference -- 1st Floor: Z253 .U69 2010

MLA (Modern Language Association)

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Main Library Reference -- 1st Floor: LB2369 .G53 2009


Open Data

Open data is data that is freely available and can be reused and distributed. Increasingly, funding agencies are requiring data resulting from funded research to be made openly available.

Open data is generally characterized by:

  • Availability - The data must be made available at no more than a reasonable reproduction cost
  • Access - The data must be made available to download in a convenient format
  • Redistribution & Reuse - The data must be formatted in a way that allows for free redistribution and reuse

Open data resources:

Last updated: 6/16/2017