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University at Buffalo Libraries

Statistics Sources: Introduction


An Introduction

Lockwood Library has many statistical sources published by governments, and the commercial and non-profit making sectors. This guide presents an overview of locating statistics in BISON and things to consider when using statistics.


Locating Statistics in the Classic Catalog

Search the Libraries Catalog limiting terms to subject keywords.  For example, "women and statistics" retrieves materials that include both terms in subject headings.


Use Advanced Search to limit results to serials (journals and annual publications that often have reoccurring tables), and electronic formats.  For example, search for "women and statistics" as subject keywords and select Journal from the Format option.

The Libraries Catalog may not always be the best place to locate statistics. If you have difficulty locating information in the Catalog, try one of the following alternatives prepared by University Libraries staff.


Using Statistics

A good idea is to ask five basic questions when working with statistics.

  1. Who? The universe reflects who is being counted. For instance, in census questions, does the library user want data about individuals, households, families, or housing units? Also consider which agency or any other entity might collect this type of information.
  2. What? What types of data variables about the universe does the patron need? Be careful not to confuse the universe and subject variables? The universe reflects who is counted. The data variables reflect what is being counted. Also consider how the agency defines a concept. For example, the Bureau of Labor statistics measures the number of people working when counting employment, but the Bureau of Economic Analysis counts the number of jobs. People working at 2 jobs are double counted. Definitions and other methodological aids are often in footnotes, appended materials, or hyperlinked.
  3. Where? What type of geography is required? (i.e., national, one state, all states, counties) If data for the desired geography is unavailable, can the patron still use another type of geography?
  4. Why? As with other reference questions, knowing why the library user seeks this data is helpful. Also consider why an agency or any other entity might want to collect this information. Methodological notes usually answer this.
  5. When? What is the relevant time period? Consider the person who wants unemployment statistics between 1980 and 2000. Determine if she wants data for the 2 years, 20 years, or any other segment between 1980 and 2000.

Consult the following for good overviews: