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ENVI 40 - Critical Thinking and Evidence-Based Reasoning for the Environment (Martin, Spring 2024): Getting Started with Data

Course Library Research Guide

Getting Started

Need some data, but don't know where to start?
Consider these questions:

  1. Do you need data or statistics?
  2. Have you seen the data you want published anywhere before?
    If Yes, refer back to that publication to find the data source.
    If No, continue to step 3.
  3. Who may have collected this data?
    • Government organization
    • Academic researcher
    • Non-profit or NGO
    • Private company
    • Industry Association
  4. Where can I access it?
    Is the data available freely online through the collector/producer's website?
    Is the data available through one of the Library's subscription databases?
    Is the data for sale, and can be purchased?
    Can the collector/producer of the data be contacted directly to get the data?

Data vs. Statistics

  • What is Data?
    • Data are the raw ingredients of statistics. Data are un-interpreted pieces of information, the result of systematic observation or experimentation.
    • Data is most frequently used by graduate students and faculty who are doing secondary analysis. This analysis often requires the use of a statistical software package, such as SPSS, SAS, Stata, R, etc.
  • What are Statistics? 
    • Statistics, or aggregated data, is data that has had a layer of analysis applied to it. This often takes the form of something like: 87% of all American adults are internet users, according to the Pew Research Center. 
    • Statistics are most frequently used by all researchers who are trying to support an argument.
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