All About the Data

Students don’t necessarily know where to look for data. One of the most difficult challenges facing academics today is making up for what isn’t taught in high school and gradeschool. Unfortunately, data and research skills are a large part of what is often forgotten or skipped in early and secondary education.

I still remember sitting in a junior year course on Cold War policy with one of my favorite professors. He was fed up with the low quality of writing and research that the class produced, and returned 70% of the students’ assignments to be completely rewritten. He also asked several of the students to stay after class in order to discuss appropriate sources and citation styles. Mind you, I was a student at the University of Pittsburgh – not the top school, but still a highly respected program.

Luckily, there are resources out there for students and professors alike. And not just for general research. The PDF found at the following link is from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, and is a great way to help undergraduates and first year grad students discover data sets for conflict data.

Kristine Eck breaks down the basics of conflict data research, the weaknesses and strengths of each resource, and tips for selecting the correct dataset.

Another excellent resource for students and academics alike is The Macro Data Guide. A description on the project’s site states that

“The International Macro Data Resource portal originates from a report prepared for the European Social Survey (ESS) which examines the availability and comparability of extant sources of contextual statistics that may be of interest to users of ESS data.

This resource contains an assessment of the current availability and coverage of contextual data sources. While it originally was intended for users of European micro data (ESS users), the site will gradually expand its coverage and it is intended to be a guide to users looking for macro data for any country. Unfortunately, the availability of macrodata varies greatly from country to country, and developed countries are in general better covered than less developed countries.”

The MacroDataGuide is not limited to conflict data, although several quality resources, such as the Correlates of War dataset, are described and analyzed on the site. Relevant URLs and publication data is also provided, along with a brief historical background of each resource.


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