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Research Data Services at UK: Find

Resources and information to help you get started with data management, data preservation, and data sharing

Finding Published Datasets

With an increasing amount of data generated and made publicly available by researchers, governments, and other entities, there is more data available than ever before for reuse in new projects. This page provides general tips on finding data for reuse along with a number of places to look based on your discipline.

Data Sources at UK

You can browse datasets available to UK researchers by subject on the Data Sources at UK guide.

Domain-Specific Repositories

Generalist Repositories

Generalist repositories hold datasets from a variety of disciplines. Many of them enable searching within a specific discipline. 

Navigating Data Repositories

Determine your research question or data need

The data you need to access is shaped by the research question you want to answer, but data availability may require you to adjust your original inquiry. Starting with a broader question will give you more options of datasets to use, but your question may become more specific based on what data you are able to access. Bear in mind that the data available to you may not enable you to answer your question as you originally posed it, so be prepared for it to shift. 

Determine who may have produced the data already

National, state, and local governments regularly produce a large variety of datasets, as do non-profits and  researchers in all academic disciplines. If your research is squarely situated in a field, then discipline-specific repositories in that field may be helpful to you.

Search repositories and journals

Data repositories with robust metadata and well-developed search systems can make it easy to discover datasets, but quality can vary greatly across repositories. If you are not able to find the data you are looking for through a repository's interface, try searching for journal articles or other publications on the topic and see if the authors provide a link to their data. 

Contact administrators or researchers to request access to non-public data

You may have identified data that would work well for your research but not be able to access it for a variety of reasons. Some possible scenarios include:

  • A dataset is publicly listed on a repository but is restricted because it contains sensitive information.
  • A researcher publishes an article based on data they have collected but does not share the data itself.
  • An organization publishes data, but not in a form that is easy to aggregate and analyze. (For example, a state campaign finance regulator might publish individual reports of campaign contributions but not provide a tool for combining data from multiple reports.) 

In any of these situations, consider contacting the researcher, publisher, or data repository. Check the listing page for the dataset or repository guidelines to see if there is any preferred method of contact. You may be required to verify that you will use the data for a valid research purpose or sign a data use agreement governing your access.

Evaluating Datasets

Not all datasets are of equal quality. As with any source, you should carefully evaluate datasets you plan to reuse in order to ensure that they are of high quality and relevant to your need. Use the criteria below to help you evaluate the datasets you find. 

Authority: The source of the data.

  • Who is the creator? Is the creator qualified to have collected or compiled the data?
  • What makes this person or organization knowledgeable on this topic?
  • What are the creator's credentials or organizational affiliations?

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the data.

  • Does the dataset include documentation, such as a README file, for reading and evaluating the data?
  • Has the data been reviewed by any other group?

Relevance: The importance of the data for your needs.

  • Does the data closely match your topic? Will it enable you to answer your research question?
  • Have you looked at a variety of datasets before determining this is one you will use?

CurrencyThe timeliness of the information.

  • When was the dataset published? 
  • What time period does the dataset covered?
  • Has the dataset been revised or updated?

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

  • Is the purpose, intent and audience clearly stated or understood? 
  • If the dataset was produced by another researcher, what question were they using the data to investigate? 
  • If the dataset was produced by a non-profit or corporation, what is the organization's purpose in sharing it? 

Adapted from  Evaluating Information – Applying the CRAAP Test, Meriam Library, California State University, Chico.