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Statistics: What is Data and How to Find it

What is Data?

Data vs. Statistics

Data are raw ingredients from which statistics are created. Statistics are useful when you just need a few numbers to support an argument (ex. In 2003, 98.2% of American households had a television set--from Statistical Abstract of the United States). Statistics are usually presented in tables. Statistical analysis can be performed on data to show relationships among the variables collected. Through secondary data analysis, many different researchers can re-use the same data set for different purposes.

Datasets, Studies, and Series

In data archives, a data set or study is made up of the raw data file and any related files, usually the codebook and setup files. The codebook is your guide to making sense of the raw data. For survey data, the codebook usually contains the actual questionnaire and the values for the responses to each question. The setup files help will not display properly.


(Adapted from UC San Diego Finding Data & Statistics)

Finding Datasets

  1. How to find the data you need
    • Is it freely available online?
    • Is it part of a database the library subscribes to?
    • Can it be requested directly from the researcher?
  2. Think about who collected the data.
    • Government agency?
    • Nonprofit or nongovernmental organization?
    • Private business or industry group
    • Academic researchers?
  3. Find publications that cite/use the dataset.
    • Scholarly articles or government reports

(Adapted from UC San Diego Finding Data & Statistics)

Common Data Sources