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Data sources for BUEC 232 (and beyond!)

Published October 20, 2016 by Mark Bodnar

I understand that our BUEC 232 students this term are scrambling to gather some data so that they can practice their newly acquired number crunching abilities. I thought I'd throw together a quick list of sources that might help them unearth the data they need.  

But before I get to the sources, please take a minute to read these important notices: 

a. Trying to find published data that exactly matches what you desire can be very frustrating. Be flexible about your goals! Will data about a slightly broader or somewhat related topic suffice? Will data from another region or country be useful?

b. The sources below are just the beginning, and some of them can be a bit complex to use if you are new to this sort of research. Please know that you can always stop by the library to chat with our expert researchers (AKA: Librarians!) about sources and search strategies.

Sources (in no particular order)

1. SFU's Institutional Research & Planning Office
If you need statistics about SFU students, then the IRP office is the absolute best (and maybe only) place to start! Try the StudentsSurveysDepartment Profiles, and Enrollment sections.  And check their Links section (lower left side of screen) to find the sites of other organizations that have large amounts of data on university students.

2. Open Data
There's a huge movement toward making data freely available (lucky you!). Check out some of the sources below to get started browsing such free sources.

a. Vancouver
b. British Columbia 
c. Canada

d. Directory of Open Data Repositories in all academic subjects + Open Data portals around the world
e. ​Consider just searching the internet for the phrase "open data" and your broad topic. You may find other Open Data repositories.  For example, see this search I did for Open Data sources that touch on health and exercise.

Social science data files on a wide range of topics and countries. Most have downloadable data as well as codebooks and other documentation. Learn more by scanning the blog post I wrote about it recently.

4. Passport
Passport is better known around here for its data and reports on sales of "fast moving consumer goods", but it also provides a lot of economic and demographic data for every country in the world.  Start by going to the Search Statistics box on the database's homepage to search across all the data they have available. Care to learn more?  Check out these recent blog posts I've written that mentioned Passport.

5. A few (more) of my favourite sources dealing with international Economic, Demographic, and Trade data

a. World Development Indicators: Development indicators including economic, social, environmental, business, and technology for more than 208 countries. 
b. IMD World Competitiveness Online: Measures the competitiveness of nations, ranking and analyzing how a nation's environment creates and sustains the competitiveness of enterprises. Sixty countries are measured on the basis of 333 criteria. Any combination of criteria can be searched for the past 18 years. 
c. UNCTADstat: Incredibly detailed data on trade, investment, and development by and between nations.
d. FRED: Economic data from the US Federal Reserve. Many international time series are included.  Free and downloadable!  Start by browsing the categories. (And if you like US data, also try their BEA, BLS, CEX, and Census pages.)
e. OECD iLibrary: Data on a wide range of topics for many developed countries (including Canada). Click on Statistics along the top navigation bar, then start exploring.

6. Ipsos News Centre
Ipsos is a public opinion polling company. This resource is a bit hit-or-miss, but you may be able to find a detailed demographic breakdown of, for example, Canadian coffee & tea drinkers or PB&J eaters... plus you'll see the exact wording of the questions Ipsos used in their surveys. Browse the categories on the left side of the screen, or do a rough/broad search, then look for a link to Detailed Tables next to the description of each survey. (Not all surveys have such tables, and they are in PDF format, so even when you get one you will need to transcribe the data for your analysis.)

Your main source for data on Canadians' demographics, spending (broadly), etc. From Statistics Canada.  

  • Also see BCStats for the BC government agency responsible for statistics collection and dissemination (start with their Statistics by Subject list).

8. International Historical Statistics
As the name indicates, go here if you need deeply historical and international (and downloadable) data -- ranging from 1750 to 2010. :-) 

9. ABACUS Dataverse Network
ABACUS provides the full datafiles and codebooks for data sets published by Statistics Canada and many other sources. For example: 

10. Finally, don't forget that you may need to retrieve time series from more than one source. For example, you might get data on recycling by country from one source, then data on greenhouse gas emissions by country from another source, and data on disposable income by country from yet another source... then use your statistical analysis skills to look for relationships between the different topics.

I hope that helps. Please check back here later in case I've added more resources, and don't hesitate to stop by the library to chat with my colleagues if you need help.

-- MarkB
Mark Bodnar
Business & Economics Librarian

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