MATH 1300

This guide supports students learning to find and use statistics and data.

STEM Librarian

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Holly Surbaugh

Fall 2022 Drop-In Hours
Centennial Science & Engineering Library, L164
Tuesdays: 11am-1pm
Wednesdays: 11am-1pm
OR use scheduler button.

Contact:
Centennial L164
505-277-0244

Social Sciences Librarian

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Todd Quinn

Zimmerman Library, 294
For Research Consultations use scheduler button below

Social Sciences Librarian

Thinking About Your Topic

Before you start looking for statistics, consider how your topic relates to:

Time: Are you looking for information about a single point in time?  Do you want to look at changes over time?  Do you need historical information?  Current information?

Geography: Geographical areas can be defined by political boundaries (nations, states, counties, cities) or statistical boundaries (mainly Census geography such as metropolitian statistical areas, block groups, or tracts). Where and at what level would you expect the relevant data to be collected (households, schools, neighborhoods)? 

People or populations: Are you looking for information about a specific type of person (female, males, economic classes, age)? Are there any relevant organizations (schools, libraries, professional associations)? 

Activities or objects: What are you analyzing? Television watching, arrests or education scores...?


Keep in mind:

  • Don't take statistics at face value. When you find statistics, check the source of the data. In other words, does the book, article or website list where the statistics came from? Do they come from a reputable or well-known source?  If not, attempt to find statistics from a more trustworthy source. 
  • Be aware of bias, unintentional or otherwise. Numbers can be manipulated, and charts and graphs can be arranged to give a certain impression. 
  • Be prepared that the most current statistics may actually be a year or more old.  There can be multiple year lags before some information is released depending on how often the information is collected, the time it takes to process and crunch numbers, and the public release schedule.

Get Started

Search Strategy #1: Identify potential producers

Ask yourself: Who might collect or publish this type of information? Then visit the organization’s website and see if you're right! Or, search for them as an author in the library catalog. These are some of the main types of producers of statistical information:

Government Agencies: The government collects data to aid in policy decisions and is the largest producer of statistics overall. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau, Federal Election Commission, Federal Highway Administration and many other agencies collect and publish data. Government statistics are free and publicly available, but may require access through library resources.

Intergovernmental and Non-Government Organizations: Many independent non-commercial and nonprofit organizations collect and publish statistics that support their social platform. For example, the International Monetary Fund, United Nations, World Health Organization, and many others collect and publish statistics. Remember that not all statistical publications will be freely available on the web.

Academic InstitutionsAcademic research projects funded by public and private foundations create a wealth of data. For example, the UNM Institute for Social Research publishes reports resulting from the research conducted by three separate policy research centers affiliated with our campus. Many other research projects publish statistics based on their data collection projects, too. Some statistical publications are available freely online, but others may require access through library resources.

Private SectorCommercial firms collect and publish data and statistics as a paid service to clients or to sell broadly. Examples include marketing firms, pollsters, trade organizations, and business information. This information is almost always is fee-based and may not always be available for public release, but you can check to see if the library has subscription access or may be able to obtain it for you. 

 

Search Strategy #2: Turn to the published literature

Sometimes statistics are "buried" within the text of  journal, magazine, or newspaper articles. 

Look for statistics reported in journal, news, magazine articles, and books.  If they report a source, be sure to follow it up! Pay extra attention to graphs, charts, and diagrams because this is where statistics are often found inside books and articles.

By searching library databases (see the Resources tab of this guide for more info), you can determine if anyone has conducted research into your area of inquiry. You may turn up a journal article with statistical tables on your topic, or you may find out that you have chosen such a unique topic that little to no research exists in that area.  Maybe you can be flexible with your topic and find a similar substitute.

 

Search Strategy #3: Use subject terms to search in library resources

When searching on the library website or in individual library databases, you can find books or articles with statistical tables. 

Screenshot displays a library catalog search with an arrow pointing to the search terms in the field and the field drop-down set to "SU Subject Terms."

Statistical publications will always include the keyword "statistics" in the subject information about the book. For example:

Screenshot from the library catalog shows the record for a book tagged with the "New Mexico -- Statistics" subject term.

 

Search Strategy #4: Targeted Online Searches

Approach where to search and which keywords to use thoughtfully. When searching the Internet, add in terms like “data” or “statistics" alongside your topic keywords. On Google, use advanced search features such as the “site:” command, which allows you to limit your search to a certain website or domain. For example, if you think that the government is a likely producer of the statistics you need end your search with the command “site:.gov” to only search within government websites. You can also search for specific document types such as PDF or XLS.

Screenshot of a Google search of "childhood obesity filetype:xls"

 

Search Strategy #5: Ask for help

Knowing when to call in reinforcements is important. You can reach out to the librarians listed on this page (or any librarian!) for assistance finding statistics and data. On the library website, you can view the complete list of subject librarians to find the one with the most relevant expertise for your topic AND set up a research consultation appointment with them online! Learn what to expect at a research consultation

Keep in mind that one possible reason nothing is turning up is that the statistic you need was never collected. Be flexible and consider alternative measures.