No matter the subject, statistics are limited by both time frame and geography.
Time: Are you looking for information about a single point in time? Do you want to look at changes over time? Do you need historical information? Current information?
Be prepared that the most current statistics may actually be a year or more old! There can be multiple year lags before some information is released depending on how often the information is collected, the time it takes to process and crunch numbers, and the public release schedule.
Geography: Geographical areas can be defined by political boundaries (nations, states, counties, cities) or statistical boundaries (mainly Census geography such as metropolitan statistical areas, block groups, or tracts).
Remember to define your topic with enough flexibility to adapt to available information!
Ask yourself: Who might collect or publish this type of information?
Then visit the organization’s website and see if you're right!
These are some of the main producers of statistical information:
Look for statistics reported in journal, news, and magazine articles. If they report a source, be sure to follow it up!
By searching periodical indexes, you can determine if anyone has conducted research into your area of inquiry. You may turn up a journal article with statistical tables on your topic, or you may find out that you have chosen such a unique topic that little to no research exists in that area. Maybe you can be flexible with your topic and find a similar substitute.
Think about where to search and which keywords to use.
Use the Delaware Library Catalog to find books with statistical tables.
Statistical publications will always include the keyword "statistics" in the subject information about the book. For example:
Education -- Statistics.
Health insurance -- Delaware-- Statistics.
Knowing this, you can use a technique for limiting your search to statistical publications by doing a subject search for your topic.
Knowing when to call in reinforcements is important.
Contact the DHSS Library at DHSSLibrary@delaware.gov.
Keep in mind that one possible reason nothing is turning up is that the statistic you need was never collected!
Be flexible and consider alternative measures.
Don't take statistics at face value. Consider the source and method used to create the statistics.
Be a critical information consumer!
Statistics should be cited just like any other source you consult.
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