4. Data Basics: Obtaining Data
There are two ways of obtaining data:
- Obtain data which already exists. That's what this section will cover.
- Collect data yourself by making observations. This can include activities such as conducting surveys or interviews, directly recording measurements in a lab or the field, or even receiving electronic data recorded by computers/machines which gather the data. This tutorial will not cover these methods of gathering data – you will explore these in courses you take.
Data can be found all over the place. While you can, of course, use general web search engines to try and find data (including terms like data or statistics in your searches may, or may not, be helpful), there are several excellent tools for finding data on a wide range of topics.
|General Library Data Resources|
See our list of Research Databases for other tools. Databases for statistics will mostly have more general tools.
|Subject Specific Data Resources|
|Finding data in articles, books, web pages, and more|
Terms like statistics or data may or may not be useful search terms to use. Use these with caution (especially when searching library catalogs). Once you search for your topic, you may want to try skimming the items for tables, graphs, or charts. These items are summaries or illustrations of data gathered by researchers. However, sometimes data and interpretations are solely in the body of the text.
Depending on your topic, you may need to gather data from multiple resources to get everything you need. You may also find data gathered on the same topic give conflicting results. This is the reality of research. When this happens, you can’t just ignore the differences--you’ll have to do your best to explain why the differences occurred.
Test your knowledge about where to find data in the Data Quiz