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How to Find Statistics  

Search strategies for statistical information and key resources.
Last Updated: Jan 14, 2011 URL: http://libguides.lib.msu.edu/findstats Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Introduction

What do you mean by statistical information?  What are statistics?

Let us define statistics. Statistics are manipulated data--Data on its own has no meaning, only when interpreted by some kind processing does it take on meaning. Statistics, therefore, are summaries or extrapolations of data.

What do I need to know about my topic before I start looking for statistics?

No matter the subject statistics are limited by both time frame and geography.

Time:  Are you looking for information about a single point in time?  Do you want to look at changes over time?  Do you need historical information?  Current information?

Be prepared that the most current statistics may actually be a year or more old!  There can be multiple year lags before some information is released depending on how often the information is collected, the time it takes to process and crunch numbers, and the public release schedule.

Geography: Geographical areas can be defined by political boundaries (nations, states, counties, cities) or statistical boundaries (mainly Census geography such as metropolitian statistical areas, block groups, or tracts). 

Remember to define your topic with enough flexibility to adapt to available information.

How should I start my search?

There are several strategies for beginning a search for statistical information.  The tabs at the top of this guide correspond to each of the following tactics:

Major Sources (Indexes & Compendiums)

Producers

Search Techniques

Literature Review

 

Decision Tree

A visual diagram to start the thought process for your statistics search.

 

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