Finding Data: Preliminary Questions

Hello, all,

As promised, here’s a link to the “Finding Data” library guide on the Mina Rees Library site. Apologies if someone has posted it already!

http://libguides.gc.cuny.edu/findingdata

The guide was created by the wonderful Margaret Smith, an adjunct librarian at the GC Library who is teaching the workshops on data for social research. There’s one more–Wednesday, 6:30-8:30pm downstairs in the library in one of the computer labs–and I’m sure she’d be happy to have anyone swing by. Check out the Library’s blog for details.

Within this guide, the starting questions that Smith provides, in order to get you thinking of your dataset theoretically as well as practically, are very helpful–and I wish I had them years ago! Here are some highlights, taken directly from the guide (but you should really click through!):

HOW TO FIND DATA:

When searching for data, ask yourself these questions…

Who has an interest in collecting this data?

  • If federal/state/local agencies or non-governmental organizations, try locating their website and looking for a section on research or data.
  • If social science researchers, try searching ICPSR.

What literature has been written that might reference this data?

  • Search a library database or Google Scholar to find articles that may have used the data you’re looking for. Then, consult their bibliographies for the specific name of the data set and who collected it.

HOW TO CONSIDER USING IT:

Is the data…

  • From a reliable source? Who collected it and how?
  • Available to the public? Will I need to request permission to use it? Are there any terms of use? How do I cite the data?
  • In a format I can use for analysis or mapping? Will it require any file conversion or editing before I can use it?
  • Comparable to other data I’m using (if any)? What is the unit of analysis? What is the time scale and geography? Will I need to recode any variables?

And another thought that I really loved from her first workshop in this series:

Consider data as an argument.

Since data is social, what factors go into its production? What questions does the data ask? And how do the answers to these questions, as well as the questions above, affect the ways in which that dataset can shed light on your research questions?

All fantastic stuff–looking forward to seeing more of these data inquiries as they pop up on the blog!

(again, all bulleted text is from the “Finding Data” Lib Guide, by Meg Smith, Last Updated Oct. 15 2014. http://libguides.gc.cuny.edu/findingdata)

MC

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