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Data Reference Toolkit

Evaluating Potential Data

a. Find Overview Information

Who is the creator of the data? Why was it collected? What is its scope? What geography and time period are covered?

b. Find the Technical Documentation


Look for and download or document technical documentation about the dataset, including information on how it was created (e.g., survey, administrative reporting, direct measure), variable definitions, indications of what was included or excluded. Survey instruments are also helpful. Hint: look for a codebook, user guide, or documentation section of the site.


c. Identify the Download Options and Access Restrictions


Who gets to use the data? Contact a librarian if you are unsure if you can access it. What formats of download are available - CSV, text, Excel?