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Topical Guides: Social Sciences Research

Social Sciences Research > 4: Supporting Data, Documents & Artifacts

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4A: Types of Resources

Data (such as facts or statistics), documents, artifacts (objects) and biographical information related to your topic will provide support, evidence or credence to your research thesis or claims. The best source for your project will depend on what type of information you are researching. For example, biographical information provides context to a subject's life. Data and statistics illustrate trends or provide support for ideas. Artifacts provide visual evidence for your findings.

It is important to distinguish between the two basic types of information: primary sources and secondary sources. Primary sources are from the time period you are researching (from the historical context). These sources can include artifacts, statistics, autobiographies or newspapers. Primary sources often form the foundation for a research project. Examples are: American newspapers or other literature from the 1920's, English legislation from 1650, contemporary crime statistics that have not been analyzed by another researcher, correspondence to and from Sigmund Freud, a congressional district map, census data, etc.

Secondary sources may also form a foundation for research, but more often these sources provide additional support for your ideas. They include Web pages, articles, or contemporary books. The key distinction between primary and secondary sources is that secondary sources interpret primary sources. Textbooks, biographies, and book reviews are good examples of secondary sources.

4B: Examples

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Access to statistics maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice including crime, jail, death penalty, courts, sentencing and expenditure data.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

Sponsored by a non-profit organization that investigates Human Rights all over the world, this site publishes country by country annual reports as well as special topic reports that inform on legislation, statistics, and incidents which are indicators of Human Rights action by governments.

The Living Room Candidate

View television commercials of presidential candidates since 1952. Additional explanatory text is included to give context to the commercial.

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection

Large collection of political, relief, and mostly current maps of areas world wide. These are maps created by the CIA and other governmental entities and are copyright free. This site is maintained by the University of Texas at Austin Library.


International statistics from a variety of sources displayed in comparative graphs. Data comes from the CIA World Factbook, World Bank, United Nations, OECD, World Trade Organization and more.

World Abortion Policies

Data compiled by the United Nations on abortion policies for 198 countries. Indicates reasons abortions are permitted or not as well as data on abortion and fertility rates.

4C: How to Find More


The official U.S. Government portal to over 30 million pages of government information, services, and online transactions. It is a source for finding government documents, reports, and statistical data from a variety of federal sources. Search by key word or use the topical index to browse your way through the documents.

Google Book Search

A beta search tool with scanned pages from thousands of all types of books contributed to Google by publishers and libraries. Your keywords can be searched within the full text of books. Only a limited number of pages can be viewed online for books under copyright restrictions. In these cases, see if OSU or an OhioLINK library own the book for borrowing. Books that are no longer under copyright restriction can be read and printed in their entirety online.

OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons (OSU access)

Audio, video, and image collections provided by OhioLINK.

Oxford Reference Online (OSU access)

A resource (available to the OSU community by means of subscription) of about 100 dictionary, language reference, and subject reference works published by Oxford University Press. It is a fully-indexed, cross-searchable database of these books.

OSU Library E-Book Collections (OSU access)

These collections are available through the OSU library subscriptions. All titles in these collections can be found through the library catalog, but by connecting directly to a collection, topics and names are searchable within the books.


Search the UN's World Abortion Policies site to find under what circumstances Cuba allows women to have abortions.

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Pop Quiz

Which of the following is NOT a primary source?

Correct answer: [NOTE: Score is not recorded]

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