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Research Data Services


Data/Statistics Sources

Strategy for finding data

  • Be as specific as possible when defining your topic.
    I need annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data for the United States, France and Germany for the last 20 years.
    What is the average SAT score by race for the last 10 years?
  • Identify key concepts and scope including unit of measure, time frame, frequency and geographic coverage. See Define unit of analysis.
    • Search key literature in your field. A good place to start is other student dissertations and bibliographic databases in your field.
      Use articles and book bibliographies to define your topic and identify data sets used by other researchers.
      ICPSR – Search database of data-related articles with links to the study used for the research.
      ProQuest Dissertations and Theses - Search citations and abstracts to more than 2 million dissertations and masters theses in all fields produced in North American colleges and universities from 1861 to the present, and from around the world since 1988.

If you need help narrowing down your topic or identifying bibliographic database try browsing Databases by Subject or Type or set up a consultation with your Subject Librarian

Geographic Unit

  • Local: city agencies
  • National: federal agencies, research centers
  • International: international organizations
Note: Not all data is available at the geographic level you need. Some data is only available at the state or county level.


  • Annual
  • Quarterly
  • Monthly
  • Daily
Note: Some frequencies may need to be calculated.

Unit of Analysis

  • Individual Level
  • Institutional Level: company, health facility, school
  • Production Level: automobiles, commodities

Time Series

  • Cross sectional: collected at the same point of time for several individuals.
  • Longitudinal/Panel: data collected at a sequence of time points for each of a sample of individuals.
  • Time Series: data collected at a sequence of time points, usually at a uniform frequency.
  • Pooled cross sectional time series: mixture of time series data and cross-section data


Ask the question: What organization or agency would likely collect this data?

  • Government Agencies
    Government Agencies collect data at all levels to aid policy decisions. It is generally distributed free via the internet.
  • Organizations
    Many national and international organizations such as the United Nations, OECD, World Health Organization, National Health Institute, American Heart Association, and World Bank compile and distribute data both free and fee based.
  • Commercial Subscription Services
    Boston College purchases major data sets for use across disciplines. Larger data sets are generally available in SPSS, Excel, SAS or Stata formats.

Government Agencies: Local & National Sources

American FactFinder census data from block level to national level.
Community Analysis Guide compiles links to city, state and county level data sources. Includes mapping tools.
Economics Research Guide provides links to major government data sources primarily at the national level but includes some state and local data.
Education Statistics highlights key government agencies that provide statistics. U.S. and international.
Health Statistics organizes links to major sources of U.S. and International health statistics. Find Government Data Web Sites:
Find International Sources: International Statistics is a more extensive guides to links to national and international data sources including major government agencies.


FAOSTAT. Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.: FAOSTAT provides time-series and cross sectional data relating to food and agriculture for some 200 countries.
Global Health Observatory (GHO) 
International Labour Organzation 
International Monetary Fund (IMF) 
UNESCO - Data for Sustainable Development: Explore data by theme and by country.
United Nations 
United Nations Population Information Network 
World Databank. World Bank: Includes World Development Indicators, Global Development Finance, Education Statistics, Health Nutrition and Population Statistics, Africa Development Indicators, Global Economic Monitor and Millennium Development Goals. Includes mapping and graphing tools.
U.N. National Statistical Authorities

Commercial Subscription Services

ProQuest Statistical Insight Complete CollectionIndex to local, national and international intergovernmental statistical publications from 1983 to the present. Includes citation information with large number of pdf or spreadsheet downloads available.
ICPSR Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research: Data archive for political and social sciences. Multiple formats available for direct download.
Data-Planet Statistical Datasets: Time series data from licensed and public domain datasets including key government data. Areas covered include: economic indicators, banking, crime, employment, environment, health, housing, industry, pricing and cost of living, transportation data and many more topics. Incudes International Monetary Fund Data.
Roper Center for Public Opinion Research: U.S. and select international opinion poll data. ASCII and SPSS formats.
BC Data/GIS & Spatial Collection: B.C. collection of key subscription data sets with download links in multiple formats.
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