So Many Data Sources, So Little Time..

Categories: Big Data, MentorSpace

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Collecting, analyzing, and reporting with data can be daunting. The person SAGE Publishing — the parent of MethodSpace — turns to when it has questions is Diana Aleman – editor extraordinaire for SAGE Stats and U.S. Political Stats. And now she is bringing her trials, tribulations, and expertise with data to you in a monthly blog, Tips with Diana. Stay tuned for Diana’s experiences, tips, and tricks with finding, analyzing and visualizing data. View Diana’s blog HERE.

It’s the beginning of a new year, which means that hundreds of government agencies and bureaus are releasing 2017 data updates for their numerous data sets. And by “hundreds” I mean so many we actually do not know how many federal agencies exist.

This is why many people’s first instinct is to visit the Census Bureau to gather statistics on all sorts of topics. It’s a centralized resource that provides data sets such as the American Community Survey which cover an array of demographic and socioeconomic topics. However, as you advance in your research or if your information needs require a more specialized focus, you may need to turn to one of those “hundreds” of federal agencies for more detailed statistics.

The breakdown

Sifting through all the federal agencies for a data set that meets your needs can feel a lot like looking for a needle in a haystack. Thankfully, I’ve spent enough time looking for new data and updating our current SAGE Stats data to identify the federal agencies that will help your more focused research get started on the right foot.

Topic Agency Specific resource
Agriculture U.S. Department of Agriculture There are several options that range from food safety to agricultural trade.
Crime Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) The Uniform Crime Report is one of the first go-to resources for crime statistics.
Economy Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) You know all those GDP figures news outlets report? They get those from the U.S. Economic Accounts resource.
Education The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Multiple data tools are available here depending on your interest in academic levels.
Employment Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment data can be sliced several ways and the BLS provides more than several options.
Health Centers for Disease Control Oh, boy where to start. CDC Wonder is a great resource for researchers who want to customize their data download files. For more summarized statistics, check out the Data & Statistics page.
Populations The Census Burea strikes again Although the Bureau has population data up the wazoo, its Population resource focuses solely on population counts.
Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics The BTS simplifies your research by providing information via multiple reports and tools.

These agencies provide ready-to-use data files, right?

Aw, bless you. I mentioned in previous posts that data cleaning is a necessary evil to get your data in shape for analysis and visualization – and federal agency data sets are no exception. The resources outlined in the section above provide data and statistics in all sorts of formats and sizes so your work remains to be completed. The clean-up work may be quick or extensive depending on the size of the file and the data’s complexity. For immediate results, check out our Advanced Search on SAGE Stats to find statistics from these same agencies in convenient Excel format!

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