This guide is meant to provide you with a list of possible resources as you start searching for statistics. It doesn't cover all topics or list all possible statistical sources for topics. For some subjects like health, our book collection offers additional resources. If you are trying to brainstorm where to find statistics or work them into your paper, feel free to visit us in the LBCC library!
|In this guide find information on:||In this guide find statistics on:|
Statistics can add to your paper by providing background and support for your argument, or may lead you to new conclusions about your topic. In order to find relevant statistics, there are several factors to consider that will help narrow down where and how you search:
- Time: Do you need historical or current information, and are you looking at a single point in time or changes over time? Current statistics may be harder to find because it can take a while for the data to be analyzed and released in a statistical format.
- Geography: What boundaries define the group you are looking at? This includes things like political boundaries or other areas like school districts or watersheds.
- Population: Who is the focus of your topic? Consider factors such as age, race and/or ethnicity, and education.
Think about who may be interested in collecting data and publishing statistics relevant to this topic. Would that be a governmental organization, non-profit, industry publication, charity, or other group? For example, if you want statistics on coffee and the economy in the U.S., you can look at the National Coffee Association website and read their "Economic Impact" fact page.
Statistics are misleading if they lead to a false conclusion. There are many ways statistics may be misleading, but they fall into three broad categories:
- inadequate or unrepresentative data
- visualization of results is misleading, such as a bad chart or graph
- inadequate reasoning based on results
For more information, see the chapter on Misuse, Misinterpretation, and Bias in the Statistical Analysis Handbook by Smith.
Avoid misusing statistics by understanding the methodology used to create them. Many of the resources listed in this guide provide documentation on methodology, which describes how the data was collected, compiled, analyzed, and the limitations of findings. If you pull the statistic from a report, the report will often have the methodology section towards the beginning. Once you understand methodology, you can better place the statistic in context.
When using statistics in your writing, use them sparingly and make sure they are relevant to your topic. Describe why the the statistics are significant and what conclusions you have drawn from them.
For more information on reading statistics and using them in writing, read this handout from the UNC Chapel Hill Writing Center.