|Using Existing Data|
Using Existing Data in Your Research
Scholars frequently use existing data for new research. The new research may or may not align with the original purpose for the data collection. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau collects demographic data for its own use. These data are often used for a wide variety of research projects, and frequently combined with other sources, such as data about health, education, and crime.
When choosing existing data it is vital you understand how the data was collected. For example, if you use polling data, you may want to know collection method, sample size, and demographics of people surveyed. Sometimes, term definitions change over time, making comparisons difficult. For example, the United States federal government's definition of unemployment has changed more than once during the time it has collected that data. To find information about your data, look for metadata and documentation accompanying it. You can also look at other studies that have used the data to find possible critiques and limitations.
|Exploring Potential Data Sources|
Exploring Potential Data Sources
Where can you find existing data available to use in your research? Is the best answer to "Just use Google?" Sometimes! Google is a great resource to use. There are a lot of web sites that make data available. Often, these sites include their own tools for finding data that allow you to be more focused in your searching. Think about who has a stake in providing the data you need or is an advocate for the topic. Check to see if they collect or publish any data that might be helpful to your research.
Data repositories are curated spaces for storing research data. Contributors may include individual researchers, organizations, and government agencies. Benefits to using a repository are the data are findable, reusable, citable, and preserved. There are several general and subject specific data respositories. Look for the data repositories available in your broad subject area.
|Finding Data on the Web|
The more you know about the data you are looking for the easier searching will be. For instance, who produced the data, who published the data, was there a title (such as American Community Survey), when was the data created, etc. Basically, more information is good!
Some types of data often not found freely online: