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Find Data & Statistics: Getting Started

Use this guide as a starting point for locating statistics or data on a topic.

Tips for Finding Statistics or Data

Knowing the answers to these three questions - what, where, and when - will direct your search for statistics.

Let's make the question "I need education statistics" into a more specific question so that you can locate appropriate information.

Ask yourself:

  • What do I need statistics about - what is your research topic?
    • For example, if you are looking for education statistics, be specific about what you need.
    • Your "what" could be: schools, teachers, students, etc.
  • Where do I need statistics for?
    • Geography plays an important role in data collection and reporting.
    • Your "where" could be: global, national (country-level), state or province, county, city, etc.
  • When, that is, what time period do I need statistics for?
    • Do you need data for a single year (2017), multiple years (2000-2015), and do you need data for certain time intervals (monthly, daily, hourly, etc.).
  • What type of data do I need?

A more precise question is: "I need data on the number of students (what) enrolled in grades nine through twelve for all counties in Virginia (where) for the years 2007 through 2017 (when)."

Now that you have a well-formulated question, the next step is thinking about who might collect and publish the information.

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What's the difference between statistics and data?

Generally, statistics are summarized data available in a format that is set up for quick look up. For example, if you want to know "how many people live in Virginia" or "How many cats and dogs live in each county in Virginia," then those are statistics.

Data is usually a data set or data files that are in a format to be used for analysis. If you would like to use a data set to determine if there is a correlation between a person's happiness and whether or not they are a pet owner, then you would likely need to use data for that type of research.

Here is a more in-depth explanation with examples.