You may well want to dig in a little deeper by seeking out statistics or maps or even by doing your own field work. Stop by the reference desk to talk about your options.
Numbers may look like pure facts and are often presented as irrefutable proof, but they are shaped by the methods used to gather them. Whenever you use statistics, pay critical attention to who gathered them, how, when, and for what purpose.
The federal government provides a vast amount of data, summarized in the handy little book The Statistical Abstract of the United States (shelved behind the reference desk). This is often a good place to start.
The following Websites are good sources for demographic and social statistics.
Federal agencies often track information and have their own statistical bureaus. Examples are the National Center for Education Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the National Center for Health Statistics.
Gallup Polls is a series of annual opinion poll summaries found in the reference collection (Ref GN 90 .G29); the Gallup Poll Tuesday Briefing, which offers summaries of recent polls such as this one on attitudes about family size, is included in full text in the Business Source Premier database.
For maps you can pore over, check out the atlas case behind the Hasselquist room where you can find world, national, and historical maps.
Online, map software and global positioning technology are being fused with data in interesting ways. The American Factfinder site, for example, has a "maps and geography" link to create maps from statistical tables.
Easy to use map sites
Google Maps - for road maps, satelite images, and both. Google Street Views lets you visualize the street, block by block.
More sophisticated mapping tools
maps that show data
MapMachine - from National Geographic
Social Explorer - a source of ready-made maps of demographic data
Worldmapper - shows world "cartograms" on a variety of topics - resizing countries to demonstrate different data sets.
localized public map sites
EveryBlock - a site that combines maps of selected cities with public data and news feed to create "hyperlocal" and constantly updated information about a particular city block. Only selected cities are included.
City of Chicago GIS - an example of a municipal mapping service; others include New York and San Francisco.
Collections of maps online
Alexandria Digital Library - links to significant collections of geospacially referenced data. Their gazetteer helps you find obscure places.
Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection - from the University of Texas, but covering the world.
The US government is a prodigious publisher, and so are local, state, foreign, and international governments. Many of their current publications can be found online. The library also has a collection of documents on the lower level that is provided through the Federal Depository System. Those that have been added in recent years can be found through our catalog.
Portals to government information
Federal Digital System (FDSys) - a portal from the Government Printing Office
USAGov - another portal, intended for a more general audience.
LSU Libraries Federal Agencies Directory - links to federal agency Web sites.
Minnesota NorthStar - Minnesota's official state Website. For other state URLs use the formula http://www.state.stateabbreviation.us.
Congressional Universe - a database of hearings, bills, and other material from the US Congress.
Thomas - offers current bills introduced in the US Congress and their status, as well as the text of the Congressional Record.
Sources of unbiased analysis
For laws and court opinions, see our guide to resources on the law.
You may have the opportunity to conduct original research by interviewing subjects, conducting a survey, holding focus groups, or recording systematic observations at a study site. This may require approval from the Institutional Review Board, a committee that ensures the college complies with rules for research with human or animal subjects. Check with your teacher about this step before distrubing a survey or conducting other research involving people. It can also be time-consuming to recruit subjects and devise a means of gathering and interpreting your results. See The Everyday Writer for more informaiton about conducting fieldwork.
There are many opportunties to do original research with the unique materials found in the College and Lutheran Church Archives. You can find historical records of departments, college organizations, athletics, and much more. Some of the materials in the archives have been digitized, but far from all. Because the archives includes unique materials, they are organized and preserved differently than everything else in the library and you must make an appointment ahead of time.
Photo courtesy of Dennis Giles
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