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IDSC 235: Perspectives in Public Health

Prof. Debby Walser-Kuntz -- Fall 2016

ArcGIS Online

To sign in Carleton's ArcGIS Online Organizational account:

  1. In a Web browser, go to 
  3. Log in with your Carleton username and password

TIGER/line Shapefiles

TIGER = Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing

TIGER/line shapefiles are the outlines of all the different legal boundaries and names used by the Census Bureau when they collect data.  This includes States, Counties, Cities, Metropolitan Areas, Blocks, Tracts, and more.  They also include roads, rivers, and railroads.

Some thoughts on starting your search

Before you jump in to searching for data, it's helpful to think about what it is you're looking for.  Ask yourself the following:

  1. What field of study would be interested in this topic?
  2. What data or measures am I looking for?
  3. Who is likely to collect the data?
    Think about whether there are government agencies or other groups that would have an interest in this data.
  4. Who is likely to share the data?

There are times when the topic you're interested in will not have any accessible data.  Before you go too far down the road of committing to a topic, be sure that the data exists and is available to you.

Library Guides about Data

Finding Data from a Literature Search

One great way to find data is to search for articles on the topic.  Many will cite the sources of their data, or reference studies that collected the data.  Make note of these potential data sources so you can search for them by name.

Catalyst searches for books and articles available at Carleton.

All Formats

Article Databases

For some topics, it works well to search some of our specific databases:

Finding Statistical Resources in Print

Web sites with data almost certainly have the most current numbers, but don't always include data collected in previous years. The library's paper collections afford a wealth of places to find statistics and data beyond what is available from databases online. Books often contain appendixes with tables. Government and non-government agency reports and statistical compendia are likely to contain -- or consist nearly entirely of -- statistical tables and charts.


Most statistical publications are cataloged with a subject heading that contains the word "statistics," for example: Crime - Economic aspects - United States - Statistics.

Perform an Advanced Search with one dropdown set to "Subject contains" and type the word "statistics." Example catalog search for crime statistics.


Another plausible way to find older statistics is to browse the stacks. This is a useful way of getting around the problem of needing to guess the right words for an effective catalog search. The oversize stacks on 2nd contain a rich collection of statistical compendia.

Chase Citations

Use the books and articles you already have in hand and skim the bibliographies and "Data" sections of the text for the names of studies, datasets, or collection agencies. Search for these names in the catalog.

For example, you might see the IMF's "Direction of Trade Statistics" cited frequently in the literature. Their web site provides access to the current data. Search Catalyst and discover that the annual index is available in its entirety back to 1962 on the second floor of the library.