Data or Statistics?

The terms are often used interchangeably, especially on website links, but it's helpful to know the difference.


  • Tabulated, analyzed data
  • Generally answering the question, how many or how much?
  • Expressed in numbers/figures/percents

Data or Datasets:

  • Untabulated
  • Unanalyzed
  • Individual responses or observations
  • Large datasets often require the use of codebooks, statistical software, and statistical analysis skills.


  •  Some statistical collections won’t include the time spans you need.
  •  Some data collections are restricted, or restricted to a certain level of aggregation (to protect respondent’s privacy).
  •  Some data is proprietary and only sold at a steep price (this is especially true for business data).
  •  Sometimes the data you want was never collected.

Strategies for Finding Statistics and Data

Many federal organizations and international government organizations are posting statistics to their websites, but that doesn't guarantee that you can discover the statistics you need simply by searching the web. The information may be deep within an online database structure not exposed to search engines. In addition, the library subscribes to a number of statistical databases, such as PolicyMap, Social Explorer and CEIC data manager, to name a few. Don't hesitate to Ask a Librarian for suggestions. We're happy to help, and it may save you some time.

Search tips:

  1. To identify some of the federal agencies, organizations and IGOs that gather and publish statistics, start with the library Guide to International and US Statistics Sources.
  2. Need to dig deeper? Search the compendia, indexes and portals to statistics listed on this guide, under U.S. or  International.
  3. Another, very useful, strategy for finding data sources is to look for articles referencing relevant data sources.

Here are two examples of this kind of search, the first in PAIS Index, a public policy article database, and the second in Environment Index, covering environmental policy and studies.

  1. In PAIS, a database in the Proquest interface, enter your topic words or phrases and the string: (data OR statistics OR table) in parentheses., e.g.

    LGBT and health and "united states" and (data or statistics or table).

  2. In Environment Index, a database in the EBSCO interface, enter your topic terms or phrases. On a separate line add the terms -- data OR statistics OR table.

Go to Article Databases to find relevant subject database or Ask a Librarian!