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IDSC 198: FOCUS Colloquium

For Professor Rika Anderson - Fall 2023

Getting to Know the Data You Find

Once you find a table or a dataset, you need to know what you are looking at. Look for contextual clues and documentation to fully identify what you have found.

Places to find information about the data:

  • Title and source information: above and below published tables
  • Dataset summary and overview text
  • Metadata and definitions
  • Technical documentation: user guide, technical information, data description, codebook

​Information to gather:

  • Who produced the data
  • When the data were collected
  • Scope: geography, time period, universe of included/excluded
  • Units of measurement
  • How were data collected (e.g., what methods or equipment were used)?
  • Are there more data available than what is here? If so, where?

Capturing the data:

  • Look for download options: what formats are available?
  • What comes with the download: metadata, definitions, citation?
  • What else must I record while I’m here: URL where retrieved, search/query terms, etc.
  • Always wonder: can I find better options: e.g., can I make my own table or download a more convenient file format?