Data & Statistics for Journalists: Time

Defining Your "Time" Data Needs

Consider the temporal parameters of the data you wish to find. Some things to consider:

  • What time frequency should your data be measured in (weekly, monthly, annually)?
  • If annual, do you need data for a single year (2012), or for a range of years (2002-2010)?
  • Are you interested in tracking changes over time? For instance, the Decennial Census tracks variables every ten years (2010, 2000, 1990, etc. back to 1790). 

Whether or not you can find the data you need formatted according to these specific temporal parameters may vary. For more on this, see the section below on problems.

Common Problems & Solutions

Having problems finding the right time period for your data? Here are the two most common issues:

  • The data you want exists, but it isn't measured (or recorded) at the frequency that you need. In this case, you may have to adjust your expectations. For instance, instead of looking at crime statistics for your neighborhood on a monthly basis, perhaps you will have to use annual numbers.
  • The data doesn't appear current. It takes time to gather (and format) data! Frequently, the most current data may be 1, 2, or 3 years old, and there's nothing you can do but use the most current year available.