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Carnegie Mellon Institute for Strategy & Technology: Repression and Control in Dictatorships: Finding Case Information and Data

Searching for data and statistics

Data and statistics are gathered and disseminated by many organizations, federal agencies, individual researchers, companies and more, often making it difficult to find just the data or statistic you need. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you embark on a search for data and statistics:

Data vs. Statistics:

While the terms data and statistics are often used interchangeably, they actually aren't the same! Data refers to the raw information that is collected and if often in the form of a spreadsheet, where each row represents one case. Statistics are summaries of data, often provided as a percentage, proportion, or average value. Do you need raw data or a summary statistic to answer your question?

Time frame and geographic scope

Think about what time frame and geography you're interested in. Do you need historical information, or information spanning several years? Or just the most current information? Do you want information at a country, state or local level?  Do you need international, non-US data or statistics?

Who collects and disseminates the data?

Think about who would likely collect the data and disseminate the data or statistics for you topic. Would this data be collected by a large federal agency in a nationwide survey? If so, which agency? Or would it be more likely collected by a non-profit organization at a local scale?

Consider different sources

There are many places to look for data. Here is a series of search strategies to try. You'll find links to many of these sources in this research guide.

  1. Data aggregators through the Libraries: These are searchable databases that bring together data and statistics from many different sources. This can be a good place to start. Examples are DataPlanet Statistical Datasets, Statista, Insider Intelligence and Roper iPoll.
  2. Data producers: If the above aggregators don't work, look for data and statistics directly from the agencies and organizations that are likely to collect and disseminate that data. You'll find some of these in the boxes below.
  3. Published literature: Researchers regularly use publicly available datasets, or their own datasets that they share, or report useful statistics in their publications. Try searching databases like those on the Finding Research and Industry News tab of this guide.
  4. Targeted internet searches: If you still haven't found what you need, try searching Google and Google Dataset Search. Add terms like 'data' or 'statistics' to your search terms. You can also add filetype:xls to limit your search to Excel files.
  5. Ask the Library! Contact Sarah Young, your liaison librarian, for more help finding data and statistics.

Google Dataset Search



Try Google's dataset search. Search the web for datasets on any topic.

Data 101 Resource Guide

Data 101

The Data 101 Resource Guide provides an overview of library support and resources related to using, finding, visualizing and managing your data throughout the research process.

News media, commentary and analysis

International Statistics

Conflict and Human Rights

Finding the News

To access current news in most major US newspapers, click on the links below or visit the Libraries' Databases List and search for the newspaper of interest. For historical newspapers, search 'historical newspapers' in the search box to find direct links to collections by newspaper title. For a more in-depth guide to find news, including historical and international, see the Newspapers Research Guide.

Public Opinion and Polling

Sources for Microdata

Microdata are data for which the statistical units are individual people or objects. These data have not yet been aggregated into statistics about groups, and thus can be downloaded, manipulated, used in statistical models, etc. Below are a few sources for large population and economic microdata sets.