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POL2020: Research Methods in Political Science: Online Statistical Resources

Reference and research tools for the undergraduate research methods course in political science.

Statistical Databases

Statista

The Statista database is a portal to statistical information, pulling together data on over 80.000 topics from over 18.000 sources onto a single platform. Reporting is somewhat limited but there are sociological/criminal justice statistics available by navigating from the top menu's Industries section and selecting Society.

Statistical Abstracts of the United States

The Statistical Abstract of the United States is the most authoritative and comprehensive summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States. Every table in the Statistical Abstract provides citations to more extensive and detailed sources of data for its subject, which also makes it an efficient guide to data sources. The data in the 

Google Searching

Looking for statistics and reports can be difficult, but Google offers some features that make the process of finding authoritative sources easier.

  1. Use Google's Advanced Search to have better control over your searches.

    The "Search within this domain" option lets you limit to just government pages, by typing .gov into the box.

    Combine this with the keyword 'statistics' and your topic keyword(s) (healthcare, crime, gender inequality, etc.) to find related statistical data and government reports.

Authority?

Wondering about the authority of a page you've found?

A good rule of thumb is to look at the domain extension, first (.edu, .com, .net, etc.).

While there are ups and downs to each domain, some of the best regulated are .edu (educational) and .gov (government).  Try limiting your web search to these domains to improve the quality of your results.

Online Resources

Whenever you use a website or other online resource in your research, it's important that you think critically about the source of information, as well as its credibility. 

Think about the following criteria when considering a website for your research:

  • Authority
    (who created/hosted/edits the site, and what are their credentials?)
  • Accuracy
    (are there errors/omissions/mistakes/lies?)
  • Objectivity
    (what is the purpose of the site (Sell/Persuade/Fool/Inform/etc.)?)
  • Currency
    (How recent is the research, and does it matter to your topic?)
  • Coverage
    (To what depth is the information covered, and is there anything new that you haven't already found elsewhere?)

If you feel that there is any doubt about the quality of the information you find, always look to an authoritative source for confirmation.

For more information on these terms, visit the FYS Website Evaluation page.

U.S. Statistical Resources

NJ Statistical Sources