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By Emily Glenn
Several discipline-specific resources are available to guide you through various search facets to discover relevant data. However, if you are just getting started with a topic, your search for data sets may be more fruitful if you start within a data bank. Data banks are large repositories of data sets on specific topics, funded by specific agencies, or focused on a geographic area. Data banks can contain data sets that are qualitative or quantitative, assembled through the course of research or mandatory reporting, and that may or may not be published.
Browse some of these existing data banks to locate data sets that match your research interests.
To cast a wider net, try searching for data sets via Google. Data sets found via Google may be missing their original contextual information that would otherwise be present in a data bank.
Exclude words by using the “-” sign in front of the word you wish to exclude
Now that you have located a data set, how can you tell if it is of high quality? As with other information sources, consider the completeness, accuracy, and timeliness of the data sets you are reviewing. Knowing the domain of the can help you gauge the study design and data collection methods used to gather the data and whether design and methods contributed to reliability and validity. Do the format and file type avail themselves to download and interpretation of data sets? Are all variables named and clearly described? Completeness of the data and codebook, transparency in methods, and appropriate complexity and are attributes of high-quality data sets (1). The lifecycle of the research, reporting, and interpretation should be considered when evaluating the quality of a data set.
(1) Chen, H., Hailey, D., Wang, N., & Yu, P. (2014). A Review of Data Quality Assessment Methods for Public Health Information Systems. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11(5), 5170–5207. http://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph110505170