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Start with a research topic. What clues does your research topic give about the data that you'll need? a trend: To study a trend, you'll need data that covers a period of time. a disparity: You'll need data measuring the same thing for different populations. a comparison: This requires a cross-national data set. a pattern in: You'll need data for smaller regions within a larger geographic area.
What techniques will you use to analyze the data, and which tools can you use? For making graphs and tables, data in Excel format might be the most useful. Certain data sets may be available in large files for use with statistical software. Some may have online analysis options.
Are there national or international initiatives related to your topic? Programs like the Millennium Development Goals or Healthy People collect data to measure progress toward their goals, which are generally publicly available.
Librarian & Coordinator of Social Sciences Collections