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Statistics & Data

Provides resources for finding statistical sources and data. If unsure where to start, or need help, please ask a librarian for help.

Finding Statistics

No matter the subject statistics are limited by both time frame and geography.

Time:  Are you looking for information about a single point in time?  Do you want to look at changes over time?  Do you need historical information?  Current information?

Be prepared that the most current statistics may actually be a year or more old!  There can be multiple year lags before some information is released depending on how often the information is collected, the time it takes to process and crunch numbers, and the public release schedule.

Geography: Geographical areas can be defined by political boundaries (nations, states, counties, cities) or statistical boundaries (mainly Census geography such as metropolitian statistical areas, block groups, or tracts). 

Remember to define your topic with enough flexibility to adapt to available information!

Finding Data

Start by defining your topic

Be specific about your topic so that you can narrow your search, but be flexible enough to tailor your needs to existing sources.

Identify the Unit of Analysis

This is what you should be able to define:

#1 - Who or What?

Social Unit: This is the population that you want to study.
It can be...

  • People
    For example: individuals, couples, households
  • Organizations and Institutions
    For example: companies, political parties, nation states
  • Commodities and Things
    For example: crops, automobiles, arrests

#2 - When?

Time: This is the period of time you want to study.
Things to think about...

  • Point in time
    A "snapshot" or one-time study
  • Time Series
    Study changes over time
  • Current information
    Keep in mind that there is usually a time lag before data will be published.  The most current information available may be a couple years old.
  • Historical information

#3 - Where?

Space: Geography or place.
There are two main types of geographic classifications...

  • Political boundaries
    For example: nation, state, county, school district, etc.
  • Statistical/census geography
    For example: metropolitian statistical areas, tracts, block groups, etc.

Remember to define your topic with enough flexibility to adapt to available data!
Data is not available for every thinkable topic. Some data is hidden (behind a pay-wall for example), uncollected, unavailable. Be prepared to try alternative data.