Whether you’re looking for story ideas or testing the veracity of a story you already have, vetted data collections are a great resource.
Cloud computing and open-source initiatives make huge data sets available to anyone with a computer—and many of these platforms are free. Users should always be skeptical and consider the data with a critical eye. How was it sourced? What was the methodology? Do its creators have a vested interest in a certain outcome?
Below is a beginner’s list of seven free and easy data sources:
The New York Times has one of the best collections of APIs, or application programming interfaces. APIs allow users to quickly pull exact datasets from topics as disparate as 2010 campaign finance reports and movie reviews by a A.O. Scott.
Data.gov hosts the motherlode of government data. This ever-expanding data hub is the go-to for all federal data. It includes approximately 390,000 datasets and over a thousand government apps, on anything from agriculture to education to internet domains.
The United Nations collects data on a worldwide scale. Interested in contraceptive use in Colombia or homicide in Honduras? The range of information and areas can provide insight into any worldwide issue.
The Census is a perennial source of interest and information on United states demographics, including race, population, sex, income and lots more. Recently, the Census Bureau released the actual 1940s census online so you can view information about your great-grandparents in the handwriting of the Census worker who wrote it.
The Fed’s FRED boasts a collection of “45,000 economic time series from 39 sources.” In addition to the wealth of data sets, this site also includes tools to graph and map those data sets—which is a great way to both research and demonstrate trends.
The OECD’s stated mission is to “promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.” In that pursuit, users can find real-time data on numerous international topics: food aid, foreign direct investment, poverty, environmental issues and much, much more.
Is there anything Google doesn’t do? The Google Public Data Explorer allows users to sift through loads of government and institutional data (some already included in this list), often more easily than from the original source.