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Research Guides

Data Resources: Undergraduate Guide to Using Data

Includes information & resources for finding & visualizing data.

Finding Data

By Anusha Nasrulai and Iva Grohmann

The research process begins with the search for data. In the context of research, data is information that has been gathered in order to validate research. Locating trustworthy and accurate data for a given project can be a challenging process at times. 


Using the UW Libraries

Many of these resources are primarily focused on articles, but also provide the means to search for datasets and collections.

To search for data, make sure you are restricting your search to formats that only include materials such as “downloadable archival materials”, “datasets”, “data papers”, or similar.

  • UW’s A-Z Database page
    Contains an index of all the databases the UW Libraries has access to. Includes many useful resources, such as DataPlanet, PolicyMap, Global Health Data Exchange, and more. Direct links to some of the data-focused resources include:
    • DataPlanet, provides immediate access to statistical datasets from many different private and public sources. The datasets cover many different subject areas. Data Planet also helps users create charts, maps, graphs, and tables, with descriptive summaries and citations.
    • PolicyMap, online mapping with data on demographics, real estate, health, jobs and more in communities across the United States.
    • Global Health Data Exchange, a collection of surveys, censuses, vital statistics, and other health-related data.
  • UW Libraries Search
    Search all of the online and physical resources UW has access to. Also check UW Libraries Search: Search and Filter for more information on how to improve your searches within this database. 
  • WorldCat
    Can’t find a resource available to UW Libraries or our Summit partners? Check WorldCat’s collection of over 10,000 libraries worldwide and request a resource through InterLibrary Loan (ILL). 
  • Web of Science
    A citation index for the sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities. 
  • Subject Librarians and Research Guides related to your subject can also provide you with excellent resources for finding data.


Library guides for select topics

UW Campus Resources

  • The UW Data Collaborative (UWDC)
    Helps to connect UW-affiliated researchers with sensitive (potentially identifying) or hard-to-access data. To request access to data, researchers must first fill out the “Request Access” form. 
  • The UW Center for Social Science Computation and Research (CSSCR)
    Provides access to social science data archives, such as The American Community Survey (ACS), Decennial Census Data, and access to the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) catalogue. The CSSCR also hosts regular workshops that focus on research data management and analysis.

Outside the UW & Open Data Resources

  • Google Scholar 
    Contains scholarly materials across many disciplines and sources.
    Provides open access to over 300,000 datasets on the U.S. government, including topics such as agriculture, climate, politics, and healthcare.
  • Looking local? The City of Seattle’s Open Data page also provides access to datasets on a number of topics. 

Other Resources

Can’t find what you’re looking for? UW Special Collections’ How Do I Find…? page contains advice on finding less conventional data, such as archival materials.

Want to improve your searching skills and get more accurate results? Check out UW’s Guide on Phrase, Boolean, and Wildcard Searching. Also check the UW Libraries Undergraduate Researcher Tutorial on Canvas for more search tips and information.

Collecting Data

You may also be considering collecting your own data to use for your capstone, research paper, honor’s thesis, or other research project, as opposed to utilizing previously published data. Remember to weigh the ethical considerations of your data collection, and contact your research advisor for more information on IRB requirements, collecting sensitive information, and de-identifying data.

The Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology (CSDE) provides data services consultations that can advise you through the process of collecting and organizing your data.

Looking into text or data mining? Check out the UW Libraries guide for more information on APIs, downloading datasets, and direct web scraping.