Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

SOCI 007: Population and Society: Getting Started

This guide is intended to help students in SOCI 007 locate and use data on populations.


This guide is intended to help students in SOCI 007 locate and use data on populations.

Related guides include:

Statistical Software at the Penn Libraries

The most recent versions of Excel, SPSS, Stata, R, and SAS are available on Penn Libraries public computers. Staff at Weigle Information Commons can assist with Excel, and we have a statistical software consultant for the semester, who will offer appointments for SPSS, Stata, and R. 

Online resources for using SPSS, Stata, R, and SAS are described in this Penn Libraries research guide:


  1. Explore the data. Google Public Data and World Development Indicators have data visualization tools for comparing countries and examining trends.

  2. 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 or sub-national data set.
    a pattern in: You'll need data for smaller regions within a larger geographic area.

  3. 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.

  4. Pay attention to the nature of the dataset and its interface.
    Look first for formally-published data (e.g., statistical abstracts, yearbooks).
    If you can't find formally-published data, then look for aggregate data (data presented in tables, usually aggregated for geographic units).
    If you can't find aggregate data, then your last look is for microdata (individual response data). Some microdata providers offer online crosstabulation tools, but most microdata providers provide raw data only for which you'll need statistical software.

  5. 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.
  6. Remember the Four P's:
    Product (or Publication)

Librarian & Coordinator of Social Sciences Collections

Profile Photo
Lauris Olson
University of Pennsylvania Libraries
203 Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center
University of Pennsylvania
3420 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206