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University of Wollongong Australia

Statistics: Points to consider when searching

When searching for statistics ask yourself:

  • Are statistics likely to be available on this topic?
  • Which organisation(s) might collect relevant statistics?
  • Where might relevant statistics be published or mentioned? (ie. websites, reports, yearbooks, bulletins, newspapers, magazines, journals)
  • What keywords might be used to describe these statistics? (eg. statistics on cars can be listed under motor vehicles or automotive industry etc.)

and be prepared for the possibility that:

  • Statistics may not exist for the level of detail or all the variables wanted (eg. you can find them for the broader area of NSW but not specifically for the Illawarra region)
  • The most recent statistics may be several years old (eg, census data)
  • Some statistics are not published/freely available

Tips on searching

A lot of statistical data is freely available online. However, search engines often produce thousands of results. Using terms such as statistics, data collection, surveys or demography will help to limit your search eg. chocolate and statistics and Australia.

Use the advanced search feature on a search engine to limit your search to a .gov (government) or .org (organisation) site. Government sites may be considered a more reliable source of statistical information.

Remember to evaluate the information you retrieve from the Internet.

Looking for statistics within books and reports? Try searching the Library Catalogue:

Use truncation to find all possible variations of a search term e.g. asia** will find asia, asian, asiatic etc.

To locate statistics from specific organisations or government departments use an Author search. eg. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Found a useful publication? Check what subject headings it's listed under in the Catalogue record and try searching these terms to find other relevant titles.

Journal articles can provide a valuable source for statistical research. In addition some databases also provide actual statistical data or reports. Check the list of Library databases to see which databases might be of relevance to your subject.

In your search include terms such as statistics, data collection, surveys or demography, eg. business* and statistic* and Australia*.

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Not sure which organisations might collect statistics?

Check statistical directories for suggested sources/where to search.

On the Web:

In the Library:

  • Instat: Subject Guide To Sources Of International Comparative Statistics (2 volumes) – 310/16
  • International Business Rankings (includes Australian rankings sources) – 338.76016/1

For older historical statistics:

  • Australians A Historical Library: Guide To Sources – kept on Level 1 994/150 (Shoalhaven)
  • Historical Statistics Of Australia: Select List Of Official Sources (1820-1970) – ARC 016.3194/1
  • Checklist Of Nineteenth Century Australian Colonial Statistical Sources – ARC  016.3194/3

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