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Data Sources: Overview

Purpose of this guide

This guide is focused on accessing research data and data sets. For statistical information and access, please see the accompanying Related Guide titled "Statistics" in the lower right menu on this page. If you have any questions or suggestions, we would love to hear from you.

What is Data?

Data vs. Statistics

Data are raw ingredients from which statistics are created. Statistics are useful when you just need a few numbers to support an argument.  Statistics are usually presented in tables. Statistical analysis can be performed on data to show relationships among the variables collected. Through secondary data analysis, many different researchers can re-use the same data set for different purposes. The video below presents a quick yet comprehensive overview of the 4 main data types. 

How to Search for Data

Google Search Tip

Google is an effective platform for finding research data. Simply type in your keywords, add the word "datasets," and browse the results. Examples: social networks datasets, economic datasets, education datasets, crime datasets.

Data Management Tools

The DMP Tool is a free service that takes you through the steps necessary to develop a data management plan, according to the requirements of the different funders, including the NSF. SMU has an institutional account with the DMPTool. Choose Southern Methodist University in the Sign In dropdown menu.

Link to DMPTool


The DMPonline is similar to the DMPTool, and is mostly used by researchers in the UK. 


Both tools have the same goal of improving data management practices, and facilitating the development of these data management plans.

Reference Handbook

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