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Finding Data

Use this guide to learn data basics and strategies for finding data.

Evaluating data

When considering whether or not to use data created by someone else in your research it is important that you are able to evaluate it and determine its usefulness to your work and its validity and trustworthiness. To do this, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the purpose of the data?
  • What context was it meant to be used in? 
  • Does the data seem to have a bias towards one outcome or answer? Can you acknowledge that bias and still use the data responsibly?
  • Who collected the data?
  • Does the person who collected the data have the necessary skills or training to do so? 
  • Are they an expert in the field? 
  • When was the information collected?
  • Some topics require data collected over a long time period while others require very timely data. 
  • How was the information obtained?
  • What tools did the collector use and are those standard for their field?
  • Was the sample size large enough for the study?
  • What was the response rate of that sample size?
  • How were the respondents selected? Who was asked? Who wasn’t? Why or why not?
  • Does the data make sense in context of previous studies?
  • Data that contradicts other data in the field should be looked at skeptically. What did they do differently to cause such a contradiction?