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Getting Started Finding Data (SJD's)

This guide was designed for an SJD class on some basic approaches in finding data in Harvard-licensed and free resources.



This guide was designed for an SJD class on some basic approaches in finding data. 

Things to consider:

Do you need "summary data" or statistics or more detailed or micro-level "data"?  Raw, consumable data? If so, in what form? What technical skills and tools do you have?

Time frame and frequency (e.g. annual, monthly)--might need to do some math

Do you need only current or also historical or retrospective data?  Can you get it from the same source? (Be careful if you are trying to mix data from different sources.)

Time series data?-Do you need data collected at regular intervals over time?

In what indicators/variables are you interested?  What is your unit of analysis (e.g. individuals, companies, etc.)?

Geographic unit (e.g. country, city, etc.)?

Who might care about the data that you want? (See Who Might Collect This Data)

What is the source, scope and methodology of the data you are using?  Definitions?

Did you do a literature review?  (See Literature Review on Topic)

See Finding Data/Data Support: Getting Started (Barbara Mento, Boston College Libraries)




Try a general index or repository

General databases, repositories and portals

When you find an entry, check the source data.

  • Research Guides

Note generally: When you find an entry, check the source data.

Specialized or subject index/repository

Topical sources

  • Research guides

Literature review on topic


You can look for articles on your topic to find articles that use data originally generated for that article or to see what data the author used in writing the article.  Some databases also have subject and resource-type filters related to statistics, data, indicators, etc. to identify documents consisting of or related to data sets.

Who might collect this data?

Thinking about who might care about this data

It is often useful to consider if there are particular governmental bodies or organizations that must or would want to collect the data in which you are interested.

You can try identifying a particular governmental body, organization, etc. or start with a general web search using keywords related to your topic (narrowly or broadly) and adding words like data, statistics, index, indicators, etc..  Adding, or to a Google search allows you to limit to websites on those domains.  Certain topics might lend themselves to private research entities.

Polling/public opinion


News/secondary sources

You may sometimes find polls and surveys mentioned in newspaper articles and other secondary sources. You might try looking for words about your topic and adding the words "poll" or "survey" to your search.

Research guides and other materials

Harvard guides

Many subject guides have sections about finding data/statistics, so you might also try looking at our research guides for your subject/discipline words and data or statistics or look for a guide on your topic generally.

Books and Databases

Technical tools and resources

Stata is available on some computers in the second floor computer lab, and on one computer in L408 (library fourth floor near Reference Desk).

Stata may also be licensed for a fee through the Stata site.