Before you search for a data source, think about what kind of data you need. Ask yourself the following:
What are your key concepts?
What unit of analysis do you need?
What geographic unit do you need?
NOTE: Not all data is available at the geographic level you need. Some data is only available at the state or county level.
What time period/years do you need? What is the frequency?
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 the data you need might have been gathered. There are two broad types of data collection:
Administrative or Procedural
To help locate the best data for your research, ask yourself the following: What kinds of data do I need? Who would collect this data? How would this data have been collected? Use the corresponding tabs above for tips on how to answer these questions. Remember to contact a librarian if you need assistance!