When searching for data, think carefully about what organizations might have collected the data you need. Governments and international organizations often maintain and provide access to the data they collect, while businesses and independent researchers' data are less available to the public. For the later, subscriptions to data archives and business databases are sometimes a solution.
Here are some possible data collectors to consider:
Don't ignore the scholarly literature (books & articles). Bibliographies and existing research may help you identify what types of data are available, and where to access them.
Before you search for a data source, think about what kind of data you need. Ask yourself the following:
What topics do you need?
What unit of analysis do you need?
What geographic unit do you need?
What time period/years do you need?
Not sure the answer to these questions about your research interest? Start by conducting a literature review. Find studies related to your topic and look for the data used by other scholars. What data points did they analyze? Where did they find the data?
Knowing what you need is an important first step. Don't skip it! You need to have a strong idea of the specific data needed to answer your research question before you meet with a librarian.
It can be helpful to think about how and why the data you need might have been gathered. This may help you determine what data exists, and in what formats they are available. There are two broad types of data collection:
Administrative or Procedural
Consider the following questions when determining if data is trustworthy --
|Does the data have a use license?
|Is there information describing the data collection and analysis strategies?
|Is there information describing the structure and meaning of the data? (metadata)
|Are the data authors/creators identifiable by name and contact information?
|If the data includes sensitive information, are proper protocols included in viewing the data (use agreements)?
|Is the data collection or analysis tied to a financial, political, or social interest? If so, identify the measures taken to ensure ethical compliance.