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Find Statistics

What are statistics?

Statistics are a collection of analyzed or classified data. While the term statistics is often used interchangeably with data, data is actually the raw information on which statistics are based.

Please note that this guide is meant to help you find statistics, not analyze or interpret them.

Statistics versus Data

Statistics Data
  • Analyzed data
  • Visualizations such as charts and graphs
  • Items that reveal patterns, trends, and relationships within data
  • Percentages found in articles

Examples:

  • U.S. national debt since 1994
  • Monthly sporting event attendance by state
  • Raw information
    • Text
    • Numbers
  • Unprocessed information captured from surveys, experiments, and observations

Examples:

  • Vote tallies in a school board election
  • Word use counts in fictional books from the 20th century

This is an example of statistics presented in a bar graph:

Before you begin your research, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the population you want to study?
    • People (individuals, couples, households)
    • Organizations (companies, political parties, professional groups)
    • Commodities or things (arrests, commercial travel, crops)
  • When is the time you want to study?
    • A single point in time
    • A time series (annually, quarterly, monthly, etc.)
  • Where is the location (geography or place) you want to study?
    • Political boundary (county, state, or country)
    • Census boundary (metropolitan statistical area, census tracts, block groups)
  • Who would collect or publish this information? Who would need this information?
    • Government agencies (Census Bureau, Department of Labor, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
    • NGOs, IGOs, or think tanks (World Bank, United Nations, Pew Research)
    • Academic institutions (research funded by outside foundations is often publicly available)
    • Non-profits or associations (American Cancer Society, National Education Association)
    • Private sector (individual companies, marketing, and commercial firms who charge for data)

For more information on determining what type of data or statistics you may need, review What Type of Data Do I Need? from Sage Data. Note, Sage uses the terms data and statistics interchangeably.

Finding Statistics

  • Understand the terminology. The terminology used for education statistics differs from medical statistics. Be sure you know the correct terminology for the statistics you need.
  • Search by keywords. For example, to find literacy rates among women in a specific region, use the keyword phrase literacy AND female, then filter the results by geographic location.
  • Try browsing. Many sources for statistics include a browse feature.
  • Data is not available for every period. For example, statistics on HIV/AIDS were not available until after its discovery in the 1980s.
  • Current statistics may be a year or more old. It takes time to gather and collate numbers.
  • Statistical data may not be available in the format that you want. You may need to download data sets and build your understanding of them with charts and graphs you create.
  • Go to the source. If you find information in a research article but cannot locate it online or in the library, try requesting the data from the researcher. Check the article for the author's contact information or try their university's website.

A list of statistical databases can be found in the library by selecting the Research Databases icon and filtering by Datasets and Statistics type. Most of the databases listed have statistics incorporated into their collections. However, Sage Data is entirely devoted to data and statistics.

The federal government compiles the following resources, and we have listed them among our research databases because their topics align with many of our programs. This is not an inclusive list of statistics collected by the federal government. To explore other datasets and statistics compiled by the federal government, visit data.gov.

One strategy for finding statistics and data is to search the academic literature. Reviewing the literature published about your topic may reveal statistical sources used by researchers.

Use the library search box on the main page to start your research, or select subject-specific databases (i.e., Medline, Business Source Complete, ProQuest One Education, etc.) to find statistics related to your topic.

  • Use "statistics" in your search. Conduct a keyword search by adding the word statistics to your search. For example, when searching the library databases for articles that include statistics on the rise of inflation in the United States, you could search for inflation AND "United States" AND statistics. Other terms include:
    • data
    • numbers
    • trends
    • polling
    • figures
    • tables
    • demography or demographics
  • Check the Methods section. Most academic research papers will have a Methods (or Methodology) section describing the data. Search for academic or peer-reviewed articles about your topic. Review this section in your articles to determine what data was used and its source. For an example of a Methods section, see the Parts of a Research Article document on the Find Peer-Reviewed and Scholarly Materials guide.

Statistics can often be found in published reports. Some reports may be mentioned in news and journal articles, and you may be able to track these down by searching the organization' or authors' websites. Other specialized library databases may contain reports with statistics that impact the topic. For example, economic, industry, demographic, and company statistics can be found in many business reports. Review the following guides to find these reports:

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