Statistically Speaking…

What people at the "10 items of less" line at the supermarket have: it's mostly more than 10 items.

Data we’ve all witnessed in action…

When you’re doing research, statistics can be excellent evidence to support your topic or claim. After all, data don’t lie. But finding the perfect statistics for your research can be a little trickier. But don’t worry, the library’s got loads of starting points when charts and graphs and numbers (oh, my!) are what you need to find.

Before you start searching for stats, though, we’ve got a couple of tips for you. First, it might seem like data-collectors have probably collected data on every possible scenario under the sun, right? For example, if you are researching how many times people posted on Twitter about the 2013 Academy Award winners in relation to the TV ratings for this year’s ceremonies compared to past years, you should be able to find stats on that, right? Well… Maybe, but maybe not.

First, the Oscars were, like, just last weekend, so there probably hasn’t been a ton of data collected on them yet. Also, one person may’ve collected data on the TV ratings, and another person may’ve tallied Twitter reactions to the Oscar winners (how cute was Jennifer Lawrence when she tripped, btw? Team Katniss!), but they may not have necessarily put the two together. So, here are a few things to keep in mind when you are thinking about what kinds of stats you’d like to find:

  • How recent does the information need to be? Some data takes time to collect, and the most recent data may not be available. Is it okay if your data is from last year? Or even maybe 2010 or 2011? 
  • Some events are too recent to have much data collected at all, so that’s another consideration.
  • If you are looking at how different elements compare to one another, you may have to find your stats in more than one place. For example, you might be the first person in the world to think about comparing professional athletes’ salaries with the money each athlete’s respective college made on sports income while said athlete played there. So, you might have to find data on pro salaries in one place, and data on college sport income in another, and then compare them yourself.
  • Is your research topic something that has statistics at all? Remember, in order for there to be statistics, someone, somewhere (we like to imagine in a white lab coat) needs to collect the raw data that turns into statistics. If no has has collected data on your topic, there might not be a lot of statistics.

That being said, there are still plenty of ways to find statistics—and plenty of ways to get help, too! If you want to browse a few starting points (conveniently organized by subject area), head to the UGL homepage and click on “Find” in the upper right corner.

The 'Find' button is in the top-most navigation menu on the UGL homepage.

The “Find” page is your link to locating all sorts of goodies!

Once on the “Find” page, scroll down to the bottom, and click on “Statistics.”

The statistics page is listed amongst many other helpful pages.

Tips on finding Statistics, among many, many other things!

The Find Statistics page lists a whole bunch of great places to start, including general starting points, which cover a lot of federal information and demographic info culled from census data. We’ve also got places to look for stats relating to Business & Economics, Crime, Education, Government, Health, Historical Statistics, Illinois-specific information, International info, and Psychology & the Social Sciences.

If you’re feeling really ambitious, the Government Information Services Library has an even more detailed list of starting points.

Of course, even if you find some potential stats, navigating your way through the data can still be a little daunting at first. You’re more than welcome to stop by the research desk, Ask A Librarian via chat, swing by Office Hours @ the UGL or make an appointment with a librarian who specializes in government information or other data services. We’re always happy to help you search for the stats that will really make your research shine!

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