Guide to Data: Home
This guide is designed to act as a starting place for data questions. It will help you find data repositories, learn the basics of data management, and begin to explore the many tools for making meaningful visualizations of datasets.
Data at GVSU
What is data?
Data is unanalyzed information. Many people think of data as numbers, but images and words can also be data.
What is a statistic?
A statistic is an observation made after data analysis. For example, a dataset of all the car owners in Michigan might reveal that twelve percent are hoping to buy a new car in the next 12 months. That observation is a statistic.
Who uses data?
Anyone can use data and statistics! Researchers, instructors, and students from all fields, from medicine to political science to English literature can collect, analyze, and use data.
Searching for Data
When you need data, you have two option: find and reuse a dataset, or collect your own. To find data, you might first ask yourself:
What kind of data do I need? Under what parameters (time, size, population, etc.)?
Once you can describe what data you're looking for, ask: who would collect this kind of data? Local, state, or federal government? Businesses and organizations? Scholars and researchers?
When you know what you're looking for and who might hold the data, you can begin to search. Google is an excellent starting place.
A search for your topic + data (i.e.: smokers by state and age data, child poverty over time data) may bring up obvious sources.
Alternatively, you might read an article or book that shows a data visualization or mentions a statistic. Look for the relevant dataset citation in their references, then locate that dataset using Google or one of the library databases.
To search general and discipline-specific data repositories, visit our page on finding data.
Feeling stuck? Not sure how to get started? Contact your liaison librarian for assistance!