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US Government Documents Fundamentals

A guide to basic information about finding, evaluating, and using government documents for assignments, research, and your own information.

Using Statistics

The statistical sources on this page can help you find numbers that are appropriate for your reports and projects.  Consider these points in the proper use of statistics:

  • use appropriate timespans; statistics that are a decade old may not support your argument
  • is the statistic effective for the point you are making?
  • read charts and tables carefully; are the numbers percentages, averages, in thousands, for a certain population, etc.? Read footnotes, definitions, and accompanying text thoroughly
  • track back to the primary source if you found statistics that have been used in an article, book, or other publication to support a point
  • most government statistical agencies are considered reliable but be aware of the reputation of your source

There are many other considerations in using statistics.  See the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) guide on writing with statistics.

NOTE: Additional government statistics and data, including US state and local sources, foreign sources, and international sources are available at the Government Data and Statistics library guide.

Looking at America: U.S. Census Statistics

Statistical Abstract of the United States

Want to back up your argument or statement with statistics?  The Statistical Abstract of the United States covers a range of topics and pulls statistics from government and non-government sources.

Major US Statistics and Data Resources

Major federal statistical agencies

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