What do I need to know about my topic before I start looking for statistics?
Statistics on any subject are limited by time frame and geography.
Time: Are you looking for information about a single point in time? Do you want to look at changes over time? Do you need historical information? Current information?Be prepared that the most current statistics may actually be a year or more old! There can be multiple year lags before some information is released depending on how often the information is collected, the time it takes to process and crunch numbers, and the public release schedule.
Geography: Geographical areas can be defined by political boundaries (nations, states, counties, cities) or statistical boundaries (mainly Census geography such as metropolitan statistical areas, block groups, or tracts).
Remember to define your topic with enough flexibility to adapt to available information! You might not find a perfectly packaged set of statistics for your original topic.
Ask yourself: Who might collect or publish this type of information? Then visit the organization’s website and see if you're right!
If a report or statistics are mentioned in an article or on a website make sure you can find your way to the original report or source of the statistics to make sure they are verifiable!