Skip to main content

Data Services: Finding Data & Statistics

The difference between Data and Statistics

Data are measurements of basic information.  Statistics result from analyzing data to find patterns.

Statistics are often presented in a chart, table or graph.

Finding Data

To find data, first define your topic.  What are you interested in learning about?

Then ask, What information do I need in order to know more about the topic.  Be specific, but flexible.

1) Who or what do you want to study?

  • People
  • Communities and Organizations
  • Things

2) What time period are you interested in?

  • Today
  • The last decade
  • A historic period

Each time period will have different sources of the data.  Sometimes the more recent (but not current) data is the easiest to obtain.

3) What type of time period?

  • A single point in time, a snapshot
  • A period of time with data averaged together
  • A period of time with changing values

4) Where is the place of your interest?

  • Geographic location or area
    • Political boundary (cities, states, countries)
    • Census boundary (U.S. census blocks, metropolitan statistical areas)
    • Natural boundary (continents, planets, oceans)

As you begin to explore the data, you can develop and refine a research question.

This question should be something interesting that isn't directly answered by the data.  But, it needs to be able to be answered by looking at data.

Sometimes the data to support a question is not available.  Be prepared to modify your question to something that can be answered by the available data. 






Your Librarian

Matt Benzing's picture
Matt Benzing
207 King Library
(513) 529-7203

Finding Data and Statistics - Strategies

1) Data Archives

There are many archives (often subject related) that collect sets of data.

ICPSR - the world's largest collection of social science data.

Government data sources - paid by tax dollars and collected by regulation so that you can understand what is happening in our country.

U.S. Census Bureau - American Fact Finder and DataFerrett are portals to U.S. housing and demographic data.

NHGIS - historic census data

FedStats - U.S. statistical information

World Factbook - CIA sponsored information about countries around the world.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention - health and life data for U.S. people.

Statistical Abstracts - summaries of census data prior to 2011

Open access data repository list - a listing by subject area of specific data repositories.

Registry of Research Data Repositories - a registry of 1,500 repositories.

Data Citation Index (1900-present) - Web of Science list of data repositories.

A-Z list of databases - a list of data sources (with descriptions) that Miami University Libraries subscribe to.

2) Data Producers

Go to the source.  Who might produce, collect or publish the data you are interested in?  There is a chance that there web site or a polite email to them will get you the data.  Tell them who you are and why you want the information.

Government Agencies - U.S. Census Bureau, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Election Commission, Federal Highway Administration, etc.

Non-government Agencies - International Monetary Fund, World Health Organization, etc.

Academic Institutions - Many academic institutions have institutional repositories to house and distribute data.  A requirement of research funding is often that the data be made publicly available.  For instance, the Miami Scripps Gerontology Center has hundreds of articles in our institutional repository.  We also have purchased datasets for student and faculty use.

Private businesses - Buying and selling data is big business.  Companies collect and aggregate all kinds of data for resale.  Most social media and web searching sites make their money selling information secretly collected from their users.  Depending on the terms and price, the Miami Libraries can purchase datasets for your use.

3) Literature Review

Even before you look for data, you will be looking at what other people have written on the subject.  Every well written article will list the authority behind the information.  Look up that source.  It may include raw data that you can use in your research.

Likewise, make sure you cite the source(s) of your data when you publish (or submit your work to your instructor.)

In ICPSR, data sources will list published articles based on that data.   The published articles may also list other sources of related data that may be just what you need for your research.

Our library catalog, A-Z index of databases and Web of Science all can provide literature that cites data sources.

When you are searching, add the words "data" or "statistics" to narrow the search.

4) Statistics Review

Search for relevant statistics and then find out what source data was use to create the statistics.

5) Ask a Librarian


Data Purchase

If you need help finding data, there are librarians here to help you. 

And, if the data you need isn't free, the library can help by purchasing a data set your your research.

To learn more, go to