Data & Statistics for Journalists: Finding Data

Data Help at Columbia Libraries

Finding Data: Getting Started

Before you begin to search for your data, work through these questions and note your answers. They will help you in your search. There are tabbed sections at the top of this guide that correspond to each data question below.
 
  • Do you already know this data exists?
    • For instance, if you found it referenced in a newspaper or other article, note the citation, or any related information like who collected the data and when. You may be able to use this to find the original data source--even if it takes a little detective work with your friendly librarian!
  • Do you need raw data or statistics?
  • What geography level do you need? (country, state, city, neighborhood, etc.)
  • Are there time contraints (a range of years, monthly, quarterly, annually)? 
  • What is the unit of analysis?
    • Are you comparing individuals or groups?
    • Do you need microdata or macrodata?
  • What is the topic or subject?
    • You can search by topic in the Data by Topic tab.
    • Think about who might collect this data, and for what purpose (collectors of data include: government agencies, nonprofits, NGOs, businesses, and academic researchers).
  • Do you need demographic data (characteristics that define a population, such as: gender, age, ethnicity, language, housing, employment)?
    • If so, then you may find that most of the data you need is available from the US Census Bureau and/or the NYC Department of Planning (DCP).
  • Do you know what kind of analysis you want to perform on your data?
  • Are you interested in creating maps (using spatial data)?
  • What software will you use? Where can you get training and help? Can you download this software and/or use it on campus?