When you begin your search for data or statistics, it may be useful to start by asking yourself:
- Who would want this data or statistic?
- Collecting data and creating statistics costs money. Most data collection and statistics are paid for by private organizations, marketers, governments, and advocacy groups.
- Is this the most recent statistic?
- It takes time to analyze and summarize data after it is collected. This means that most statistics are not real-time, sometimes statistics can be a year or more old, but still be the most recent. Keep this in mind when searching for recent statistics. You may not find statistics from the current year because the data are still being gathered and analyzed.
- Is this the best source of this data/statistic?
- If you are looking at data or statistics from a particular group, make sure to look at it closely. If it is data from an advocacy group, then it will possibly be biased toward their efforts. Additionally, does the site or group provide access to the data of the statistic? Does the website seem reliable and was the data collected by a trustworthy authority in the discipline? If this information is not available, you may want to reconsider using any data or statistic from the site.
- Am I reading this data/statistic right?
- Make sure to read the data or statistic carefully. You don't want to misinterpret or accidentally misrepresent the data or statistic in your own research. If you have questions about the data, carefully read through any documentation or codebooks.