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ENED 3061 Probability and Statistics I - Finding Data Sets

Quick Tips for Data Set Searching

​​​​​Word choice matters

  • Remember to search different word variations such as: dataset, data set, datasets, data sets

Use Filters

  • Filters within databases will allow you to limit results to specific data formats, publicly available datasets, and much more 

Make an account

  • Some dataset databases require that you create an account to download the information or to see the full range of available data sets - especially ICPSR

Search Tips

Use these tips to begin your research:

  1. Identify keywords
    • Library search tools don't respond well to natural language searching (where you type in your whole question or sentence) instead, you need to identify only the most important words (keywords) in your research question or topic.
  2. Think of synonyms and related terms:
    • Library search tools are built to find exact matches so a search for "students" will only find resources with that term and won't find resources with the term "learners" even though they might be relevant to your topic. To ensure that you're not missing important information, take some time to think about synonyms and related terms for each of your keywords.
  3. Decide where to begin your search and try the suggested databases in this guide.
  4. Build a search query:
    • Create a search set of synonyms (use "OR" operator) for a concept
    • Combine search sets for concepts with "AND" operator
    • use quote marks " " to identify a phrase
    • Use truncation and wild cards to expand based on a word stem (e.g., nano* )
  5. Narrow your results:
    • Use refine or limit features to narrow your search results by date, material type, treatment, etc.
  6. Examine search result record to see what subjects have been assigned (if any) to the record.
  7. Try citation searching
    • Expand to related articles with shared citations
    • Use citation searching and browsing features, including sorting by # of times cited (Web of Science, SciFinder, Google Scholar, etc). 

Troubleshooting Your Search

When looking at your search results consider: Are any of your results relevant?

If YES, look for clues to help continue your search:

  • Are there subjects terms assigned that look helpful? Try searching them in addition to your original terms
  • Consider "find similar" suggestions if available through your database
  • Try citation searching and review references
  • Continue your search in another database.  

 If NO, did you find too many results?  Too few?

  • Re-examine your question/topic - is it too specific? Too broad?
  • Think about the search terms that you are using and brainstorm synonyms
  • Think about the database(s) that you are using and try a different one
  • Consult a colleague and/or librarian for suggestions about terms and databases to try
  • Consider reasons why there might not be research published in journals on your topic

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