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Need help finding data? Ask a librarian!

Frequently university researchers at all levels -- from first-years to graduate students to faculty -- need to procure and analyze datasets to achieve their goals and realize their envisioned projects. But what happens when data are hard to find?

Luckily, librarians are excellent problem-solvers who know how to knock down obstacles to support researchers. This includes helping them locate data across any discipline (even in the humanities) and in a variety of contexts. Continue reading for a round-up of success stories.

  • Research Services Head Ryan Johnson recently met a student seeking information on remittances to Sudan and South Sudan. Using one of the library’s newest subscription-based resources, Data Planet, Mr. Johnson connected the student to relevant World Bank data within minutes.
  • Business Librarian Jennifer Boettcher relied on her years of unique expertise built in her field of specialization to help an MBA student track down market research data on consulting services for municipal-level governments, agencies, and utilities. Spending significant time familiarizing herself with Census of Governments paid off when she was able to identify the best data source off the top of her head.
  • While monitoring the library’s research help chat, Instructional Technology Librarian Topher Lawton assisted a researcher working on an infographic highlighting wealth disparities over time. Although finding individual statistics on wealth gaps over time by race and/or neighborhood took a lot of digging, together they successfully met the researcher’s need using the Bureau of Labor Statistics and data.census.gov.
  • At the request of a faculty member, Science Librarian Holly Surbaugh pulled together a customized instructional guide emphasizing sources of datasets for a School of Foreign Service proseminar focused on the ethical, social, and political implications of data. Note that many librarians also curate multiple research guides that point to subject-specific data sources.

So the next time you need help finding data, don’t hesitate to submit a research consultation request, contact your subject librarian directly, or just reach out to the library with your question.