How To Do Library Research
Statistics & data: Which is which
If you find yourself asking questions such as "how many?" you are looking for a statistic. A statistic is a numerical fact. They are often found in tables or reported as numbers or percentages in an article.
Data is gathered as a result of a study in order to help understand something and to gain deeper knowledge. Data may be composed of numbers (quantitative) or observations (qualitative). Data is often stored in datasets that can be downloaded and then studied with the help of software packages such as SPSS, SASS, Excel or Nvivo.
Assessing statistics & data
When looking for statistics or data in your research, it is always important to pay attention to:
source: Is the source of the statistic identifiable? is the source reliable?
dates: Do the statistics cover the dates necessary for your research? If you are relying on a single statistic from an article, can you verify the date which the source material for which that statistic was collected?
measurements: Are they measuring what you expect them to measure, and in a unit that makes sense? If you have to compare statistics, are the measures the same, or can they be converted to the same units without changing their meaning?
Finding Statistics & data
The Libraries provides a number of tools to help you look for statistics and data for your research. These include:
- Statistics and Census Data - start here for a list of reliable website for statistics and data covering a range of subjects
- Subject Guides - individual subjects guides often provide links to datasets and webpages that provide data and statistics relevant to the area Some of these more statistic and data heavy guides are included in the related guides section.
- Data Services for the Social Sciences - datasets that can be searched and downloaded for analyzing
- Reference materials - check with the Research Help Desk for assistance in finding statistics in a reference book. These are often arranged around general topics and statistics can often be quickly located.