Skip to main content

Data & Statistics Research Guide: How to Search for Data

This guide is a collection of all of the data and statistics-related research guides.

Strategies for Finding Data

If you haven't already, please review the considerations section of this research guide.

To begin searching for data, you can use a few different strategies:

  • Identify your unit of analysis
    • Who or what are you trying to find information about? (ex: people, organizations, things)
    • What time period do you want to study? (ex: present, 1800s, January, 1st 1961 - December 31st, 1962)
    • What is the location you want to study? (ex: United States, District of Columbia, North Carolina counties, South Korea)
  • Identify producers of the data
    • Who is interested in this data? (ex: Private sector, governments, advocacy groups, academic institutions)
    • Some data producers will have access to their data online. In the case of U.S. government data, you can usually find the data on their website or via a data portal like data.gov.
    • Not all data producers will make their data publicly available. Remember, data is expensive to collect or may contain sensitive information. In these instances there may be access restrictions or data use agreements placed on the data. If you have questions about getting access to a specific dataset, please contact Mandy Gooch, the Data Services Librarian.
  • Search through a research guide
    • Gelman Library creates and maintains a variety of useful research guides to assist in locating data. These guides are the best starting point for your search. You can access all of these guides in the navigation tabs above or from the main research guides listing here.
    • For Health Sciences data and statistics, please look at Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library's Research Guides.
  • Search in a data archive or data portal
    • Data archives usually preserve data and appropriate documentation from specific disciplines and set access levels on the data. For example, some data is publicly available for download while other datasets may not be available without signing a data use agreement. If you are still relatively new to a particular discipline, starting your search in a data archive will help to orient yourself with trends and popular topics.
    • Data portals collect data from multiple archives, databases, publications, and sites. They are usually multi-disciplinary and allow you to search across all of these platforms at one time.
  • Follow the trail!
    • Read the literature in your discipline about your topic. Identify statistics and data referenced in these articles. Statistics come from data, so if you see a particular statistic that interests you, look for its source.
  • Ask for assistance
    • If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact us!

GW Libraries • 2130 H Street NW • Washington DC 20052202.994.6558AskUs@gwu.edu