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Doing Research: Data

Finding Statistics

Numbers may look like pure facts and are often presented as irrefutable proof, but they are shaped by the methods used to gather them. Whenever you use statistics, pay critical attention to who gathered them, how, when, and for what purpose.

The federal government provides a vast amount of data, summarized in the handy little book The Statistical Abstract of the United States (1878-2012 online; most recent year in print is shelved near the reference desk). 

The following Websites are good sources for demographic and social statistics.

Federal agencies often track information and have their own statistical bureaus. Examples are the National Center for Education Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the National Center for Health Statistics.

Opinion polls


Unique Primary Sources

The College and Church Archives located on the upper level of the library is a place to get your hands on the raw materials of Gustavus history. But since these materials are one-of-a-kind, you have to handle them carefully, and you'll need assistance from the archives staff. This means planning ahead and making an appointment. 

You can get a sense of what's available by browsing the digital collections.

Using Maps

For maps you can pore over, check out the atlas case behind the Hasselquist room where you can find world, national, and historical maps. (The Hasselquist room is on the main floor of the library.) Online, map software and global positioning technology are being fused with data in interesting ways.

Easy to use map sites

  • Google Maps - for road maps, satellite images, and both. Google Street Views lets you visualize streets, block by block.

More sophisticated mapping tools

  • National Map - from the US Geologic Survey.
  • Atlas of Canada - from our large and geographically-sophisticated neighbor to the north.

Maps that show data

  • Social Explorer - a source of ready-made maps of demographic data
  • Worldmapper - shows world "cartograms" on a variety of topics - resizing countries to demonstrate different data sets.

Localized public map sites

Collections of maps online

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