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SOCI 2005 and 2006 Sociological Imagination and Inquiry: Data and Statistics

This is a course specific guide covering resources for Sociology and qualitative research methods.

Contents

Data Collections

Data Repository Portals

Evaluating Data and Statistics (Gould Library, Carleton College)

Factors to Consider When Evaluating Data and Statistics

Source

  • Who collected it?
  • Was it an individual or organization or agency? 
  • The data source and the reporter or citer are not always the same. For example, advocacy organizations often publish data that were produced by some other organization. When feasible, it is best to go to the original source (or at least know and evaluate the source).
  • If the data are repackaged, is there proper documentation to lead you to the primary source? Would it be useful to get more information from the primary source? Could there be anything missing from the secondary version?

Authority

  • How widely known or cited is the producer? Who else uses these data?
  • Is the measure or producer contested?
  • What are the credentials of the data producer?
  • If an individual, are they an expert on the subject?
  • If an individual, what organizations are they associated with? Could that association affect the work?

Objectivity & Purpose

  • Who sponsored the production of these data?
  • What was the purpose of the collection/study?
  • Who was the intended audience for or users of the data?
  • Was it collected as part of the mission of an organization? Or for advocacy? Or for business purposes?

Currency

  • When were the data collected? Not always close to when they were released or published -- there is often a time lag between collection and reporting because of the time required to analyze the data.
  • Are these the newest figures? Sometimes the newest available figures are a few years old. That is okay, as long as you can verify that there isn't something newer.

Collection Methods & Completeness

  • How are the data collected? Count, measurement or estimation?
  • Even a reputable source and collection method can introduce bias. Crime data come from many sources, from victim reports to arrest records.
  • If a survey, what was the total population -- how does that compare to the size of the population it is supposed to represent?
  • If a survey, what methods used to select the population included, how was the total population sampled?
  • If a survey, what was the response rate?
  • What populations included? Excluded?

Consistency / Verification

  • Do other sources provide similar numbers?
  • Can the numbers be verified?

Citing Data Overview

Citing data helps your readers locate data, replicate your findings, and generally promotes "open data" values. The following should be included in your citation:

  • Author
  • Publication Date
  • Title
  • Publisher or Distributor
  • Version
  • Electronic Location (e.g. URL)

The general format for citing data using the APA 6th ed. (p. 211) is as follows:

Rightsholder, A. A. (Year). Title of program (Version number) [Description of form]. Retrieved from http://xxx

or, if you have a Digital Object Identifier (doi), you can use it in place of the URL.

The form descriptions can vary, examples include the following:

Data set

Database

Time series

(Thanks to Esther Gil, DU Business and Economics Librarian and Gould Library, Carleton College)

Guides to Citing Data

Finding Data from the Literature (Carleton College)

At the very first stages of your literature review, start taking notes on potential data sources.  Make a habit of jotting down the data used in each study you read to make it faster when you come back later in your search for data.  Also, this practice can help you see and articulate how your contribution is unique.  You might want to keep these notes in a table like the following for easy reference.

Author(s) and Year of Publication Claim Data Dependent Variable/Estimation Technique Significant Findings
     

 

 

See an example of this practice in action:

DU Commencement Programs Project

ICPSR Research Guide

Data Visualization Research Guide

Census Data

SPARC Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition