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Research Guides

Undergraduate Guide to Using Data: Evaluating Data

Introduction to using data for undergraduate students.

There is a lot of data out there, and it may seem difficult and intimidating to determine what data to use for your research. To make this determination, you must assess if the data is reliable and if the data is appropriate for the context of your research. To evaluate data, you should ask questions of the data, as well as ask questions of yourself as a researcher.

Questions to Ask the Data

Follow the data to the source:

Where did this data come from? Who (person or entity) gathered the data? 

Who funded the data collection? What are their biases and priorities for this data? 


What is the research context of this data?

What was the purpose of compiling this dataset? Why did the researcher gather this data?  

What research projects has this data been used for?

Look for similar datasets, how does the data compare? Are there differences across datasets that need to be mediated? 

Is this data common knowledge?

What is missing from the dataset? Who or what is not represented by the dataset? 


Questions to Ask Yourself as a Student Researcher

Is the dataset appropriate for the purpose of your research?

How does your research align with the goals of other research that has used this data? 

Is the dataset relevant to the discipline of your research? 

How do you have to manipulate the data to fit your research question? Is there another dataset better suited for your research purpose? 

UW Libraries Resources for Evaluating Data