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Has this data been repackaged? If so, ask:
Is this data current enough for my purposes?
To fully understand your data, what it can tell you, and how much it will strengthen your argument, look in the following places:
Find the website of the institution that creates, disseminates, or hosts the data you are using
Look for documentation: User Guides, Codebook, Questionnaire or "survey instrument," Statistical overview
Look for Purpose / overview / background, Methodology, and Data quality
The Research Literature
Search for research articles that use the data you're researching
Citation chain - look at their references and find who cited them
With large surveys, it is often the case that the web site where they are hosted will also contain a bibliography of research that is about or uses that data. Look for these on the project web sites for the data.
ICPSR maintains a Bibliography of Data Related Literature, which you can search from their web site.
Often, topical entries in subject encyclopedias will have sections on data. For example the entry for Recidivism in the Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice has a discussion of data commonly used to measure recidivism.
Note: some data will be much easier to research than others, and not all three suggestions above will apply to all datasets.
Content on this page was adapted from "Data, Datasets, and Statistical Resources" by Gould Library licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Source: Who or what is the source?
Motive: What’s in it for them?
Authority: Who produced the data/statistics?
Review: Go over the collection methods & completeness carefully.
Content on this page was adapted from "Savvy Info Consumers: Data & Statistics" by University of Washington Libraries.