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Data Module #3 - Finding & Collecting Data for Your Research

Research Scenarios

Learning Through Example:
Political Science Research Project

Exploring how same day voter registration laws affect voter participation rates among racial groups. 

When looking for existing data ask yourself the following questions:

Who might collect data about voting participation?

  • U.S. state governments. You know that offices of the Secretary of State are required to retain election data. They may or may not publish the data you want online. You should contact them directly, as needed. Are there other agencies that might have voter participation data you would be interested in? 
  • U.S. federal government. You know that the Federal Election Commission and the National Archives gather election data. Are there other federal government departments interested in voter participation?  
  • Other organizations. You know the N.A.A.C.P. is involved with helping people to register to vote. Might they collect data relevant to your research? Think about other organizations that might collect relevant data, such as the American Presidency Project out of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
  • Other ideas?

Who might collect the demographic data you want? 

  • U.S. census data. The major population census is conducted every ten years, but other surveys (such as the American Community Survey) occur more frequently.
  • U.S. state government or local governments. Are there agencies that track and report demographic data?
  • Other ideas?