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Finding Data & Statistics

The library offers a variety of resources for finding data and statistics, as well as analysis, support, and research data management.

Data & Statistics Defined

The terms “data” and “statistics” may often be used interchangeably, but in the worlds of research and academia it is important to understand the difference.

  • Data refers to the most granular level of information to describe some products of research. It could be numbers or individual observations logged in a spreadsheet during an experiment.
  • Statistics refers to some kind of synthesis of that data. It could be a calculated average (mean) or some expression of how a variable changes over time.
Government Data & Statistics

The largest publishers of statistics in the U.S. are the federal government and local government agencies. Government agencies collect data at all levels to aid policy decisions and inform researchers in a variety of fields. After collection, this data is usually published as some compilation of statistics.

Government statistics are generally available for free online, but certain statistics may be harder to track down than others. Government agencies report on data and organize statistics to serve the goals of their agency — often under time and budget constraints. Your research questions may be better served by a different way of organizing the data or additional detail not included in the usual summary statistical reports.  If you want the more complete sets of data behind a certain statistic, you might need to make a special request.

Before getting started looking for data, consider these questions. Doing so will help inform where to search and if the data even exists.

  • What level of geography do I want information about? (i.e., an entire country? A specific region?)
  • What unit(s) of analysis is needed?
  • What is the time frame?
  • Who might collect this type of data?
  • Why would they collect this type of data?
Non-Governmental Data & Datasets

Besides government agencies, many other types of organizations and researchers are increasingly making their data available in online data repositories.

Learn more about Open Access

Get Help With Data & Statistics
Mary Martin
Social Sciences Librarian
Jeanine Finn
Head, Data and Digital Scholarship Services