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Statistical Research: Understanding Statistical Research


Before examining the suggestions and resources in this guide, clarify exactly what information you need, and also what you need to do with that information. Ask yourself (or your instructor):

  • Do I simply need to collect some pre-existing numbers about a certain event or phenomenon?
  • Have I been asked to develop a statistical research project involving planning and designing a study, collecting data, and analyzing and interpreting that data before reporting on it?

Each project involves different methods of data collection, and the resources included here will help with each.

Finding Statistics in the Library

Finding statistics in library resources can happen in a few ways:

Some specialized databases--mostly in the "hard" sciences and the social sciences--include fields for locating the results of statistical research in their Advanced Search options. To do this:

  • In whichever database you are using, click Advanced Search, usually under or next to the basic search box.
  • A page full of options for narrowing your search results will open.
  • Add your keywords in the search fields at the top.
  • Scroll through the other options for limiting by demographics and/or population types, as needed.
  • Select any methodologies or other content types, such as qualitative study, field study, empirical study, and so on.

For example, if you want to know what percentage of addicted gamblers relapse within one year of treatment, your keywords might be relapse AND (gambling OR gambler OR gamble) AND addiction, and your selected methodologies might include empirical study, qualitative study, or interview. You would read the results of those studies or interviews to find the statistic you seek.


Alternately, in databases with or without these Advanced Search features, you may choose to add to your keyword combinations to find the information you need. For example, in the search box, you might type:

relapse AND (gambling OR gambler OR gamble) AND addiction AND (percentage OR statistics OR data OR rates)

The library's guide to "Searching for Information Sources" from our Research Skills Tutorial will help you to identify keywords using concept charts, and effectively combine keywords using Boolean operators, as above.

Designing a Statistical Research Project

As mentioned above, carrying out a statistical research project involves several steps:

  • planning and designing the study
  • collecting data in accordance with the methodology you've chosen (or been assigned) for the study
  • analyzing and interpreting that data
  • reporting out results of the study, typically via a paper or presentation


The following resources will help with understanding this process. 

Be sure to also review the tabbed pages above for more helpful resources.

For subject-specific statistics resources, please visit the relevant library Subject Guides.