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Datasets & Statistical Sources

The Datasets & Statistical Sources LibGuide is a resource for finding and evaluating data sources, including microdata, statistical databases, and tools for analyzing and visualizing data.

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Evaluating Sources

How to Evaluate Sources from Stanford University

Evaluating Data and Statistics

Critically evaluating statistics or a dataset requires a thorough examination of its reliability, relevance, and validity. Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Determine the source: Identify the origin of the statistics or dataset. Consider reputable sources such as government agencies, academic institutions, or well-established research organizations.
  2. Assess the credibility: Evaluate the credibility and expertise of the organization or individual responsible for collecting and publishing the data. Look for a track record of accurate and reliable research.
  3. Examine the methodology: Understand the methodology used to collect the data. Evaluate whether the methodology is appropriate for the research question and whether it aligns with accepted standards in the field.
  4. Evaluate the sample size: Consider the size of the sample used to collect the data. A larger sample size generally improves the reliability and generalizability of the findings. Assess whether the sample size is adequate for the research question.
  5. Check for bias: Investigate any potential sources of bias in the data collection process. Look for any indications of sampling bias, response bias, or any other factors that may affect the objectivity of the data.
  6. Review data collection techniques: Examine the techniques used to collect the data. Ensure that the data collection methods are appropriate and that they minimize potential errors or biases.
  7. Assess data quality: Evaluate the overall quality of the data. Look for missing values, outliers, or inconsistencies that may affect the reliability or validity of the dataset. Consider whether the dataset has undergone any cleaning or preprocessing to address these issues.
  8. Consider data relevance: Determine the relevance of the dataset to your research question. Assess whether the variables and measures included in the dataset align with your research objectives and hypotheses.
  9. Verify statistical analysis: If the dataset has been subjected to statistical analysis, review the techniques and methods used. Check for appropriate statistical tests, correct interpretation of results, and appropriate reporting of confidence intervals or p-values.
  10. Consult peer-reviewed literature: Look for studies or papers that have utilized the same dataset or similar statistics. Assess how these previous studies have evaluated and used the data, and consider their findings in the context of your own research.
  11. Consider limitations: Identify and acknowledge the limitations of the dataset or statistics. Understand the potential weaknesses or shortcomings that may impact the interpretation or generalizability of the results.
  12. Seek expert opinion: If you have any doubts or concerns regarding the dataset or statistics, consult with experts in the field. Seek guidance from mentors, advisors, or colleagues who have expertise in the subject matter.