Analytics Press Logo Turning Numbers Into Knowledge: Mastering the Art of Problem Solving

By Jonathan G. Koomey, Ph.D.


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More data appear on the Internet every day. It is an impossible task to report the latest developments in a book (things change too fast), but a frequently updated web site can keep pace.

There are some key sites of which you should be aware:

  • The Library of Congress site is an invaluable source. You can search many parts of the library's databases with little effort. Many local libraries have also placed their catalogs on the Internet, which can save you a trip to the library next time you want to do research.
  • The U.S. Bureau of the Census site is beautifully designed and is a treasure trove of social, demographic, and economic data. You can search by key word, by place, by clicking on maps, and in many other ways. Most of the data on this site are free or available at nominal cost. This site also houses the Statistical Abstract of the U.S., which is one of the most important reference documents for any U.S. researcher.
  • The National Technical Information Service (NTIS) is still, as of this writing, the official source of many U.S. government reports. NTIS sells almost three million titles, and you can search on its nicely designed web site to find the one you want. NTIS is likely to be shut down in the near future because the Internet has made the NTIS business model (selling hard copies of government reports) obsolete.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration site is the right place to find energy and some environmental data for the U.S. The site also has limited information on certain international topics, such as nuclear power or energy use in other countries. Most of the data on this site are free or available at nominal cost.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's site contains huge quantities of environmental data, as well as access to the EPA's reports.
  • The Fed Stats site is a treasure trove for U.S. economic data. It allows easy access via the World Wide Web to data from more than 50 federal agencies. Unfortunately, individuals must pay $150/year or $50/quarter for access to this source.
  • A web site with both U.S. and international economic data is Economagic. This site claims to offer access to 100,000 data files (many of them for free), with special services for subscribers (fees for subscribers range from small to moderate depending on the level of service).
  • The National Center for Health Statistics site contains data and reports on U.S. health that can be downloaded for free.
  • The U.S. Geological Survey produces a superb on-line atlas for the United States. This site allows the user to map standard political boundaries, identify the locations of airports and dams, and overlay the routes of roads and railroads. It also contains maps of Super-fund sites, air pollution emissions, mining operations, industrial facilities, and selected data from the U.S. Census.

  • If the study is published in a major peer-reviewed journal, it’s passed the first hurdle of basic scientific credibility. A long (but still probably incomplete) list of peer-reviewed journals, is here. For a ranking of the importance of different journals in virtually all scientific fields, see the Science Citation Index, put out annually by the Institute for Scientific Information or ISI. These rankings are based on the number of citations to papers in a given journal by the scientists in that field, so they are a relatively objective measure of journal quality. In its electronic database, ISI’s web site also has a large searchable list of journals, as well as other related products.

  • Chance News is a monthly compilation of statistical puzzlers, problems, and solutions, often drawn from current events. If you want to hone your statistical skills, there's no better place to do it.

  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) exist on the Internet for almost any topic. Because these FAQs are compiled by experts in each field, they are a great place to begin your inquiries. Use Internet search engines to find the FAQs that will help you most.
  • There are hundreds of newsgroups on everything from Star Trek to statistical analysis. By posting an email to the relevant newsgroup, you can often get answers to questions from people all over the globe in a matter of hours or days. You can generally access these newsgroups using your web browser (consult your Internet service provider for details, or click here).

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