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Data & Statistics: Evaluating Data Sources

A guide to help you find data and statistics - useful to students and researchers across many disciplines

Evaluating Data Sources

NEVER accept a statistic, data table, or chart at face value!

ALWAYS evaluate how this information was derived by:

  • Checking for a citation
  • Evaluating the original source

Statistics are far too easy to manipulate due to the complex nature of gathering data. Asking the following questions will help you evaluate the quality of the statistics you’re looking for.

How to Evaluate Data and Statistics

Find the Data Documentation (if available), usually in the form of a User Guide, Codebook, and/or Questionnaire to help you understand and evaluate the data.


  • Who collected the data? Are they an individual or organization?
    • If an individual, are they an expert in this subject area? What organizations are they associated with?
  • What are the credentials of the data collector/producer?
  • How widely known/cited is the data collector/producer? Who uses the data?
  • When were the data collected?

Purpose and Objectivity

  • Why were the data collected?
  • Who funded or sponsored the data collection/production?
  • Who is the intended audience for the data?

Methodology and Documentation

  • How are the data collected?
  • If a survey, what is the sample size? How was the population sampled? Who is included/excluded from the survey? What was the response rate?
  • Can you find any documentation on the data? How well are the data documented? What questions were asked? Are they leading questions?

Consistency and Verification

  • Can the data be verified?
  • Do other sources provide similar numbers?

Quality Assessment Checklist

Subject Librarian

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Susie Wilson