Data capture background concept (FreeImages, [no date]).

As part of your dissertation you may be trying to prove a theory or hypothesis. This may require the use of data and/or statistics.  

Data differs from statistics in that a typical dataset comprises the full range of numbers produced through study of a particular phenomena. Statistics, on the other hand, are the summaries produced using the raw data and are usually, but not always, presented in the form of a chart, graph or table. For example, exam performance scores for each University of Leeds student (data) may be used to produce statistics such as average performance by Faculty, ethnicity or socio-economic background.  

Due to continued restrictions because of cornonavirus, gathering primary data for your dissertation might not be an option. Now would be a good time to explore the increasing amounts of data and statistics freely available online. There are some excellent online portals providing statistics on a range of topics and below is a description of some of the leading resources. 

Statistics 

UK Data Archive 

If you are looking for social sciences and humanities statistics then the UK Data Archive (UKDA) a good place to start. UKDA is the curator of the largest collection of online statistics in the social sciences and humanities in the UK. Access to the statistics is via the UK Data Service (UKDS): https://www.ukdataservice.ac.uk/get-data.aspx

The UKDS provides access to over 7,000 digital statistics collections covering an extensive range of key economic and social data, both quantitative and qualitative, and spanning many disciplines and themes. For example, you can download data from large nationally representative social surveys on topical issues or from the UK Census and international databanks. Some statistics are open and available without registration, whilst others are safeguarded and users must register with the UK Data Service.  

The UKDS runs a Dissertation Award to recognise outstanding use of secondary data in undergraduate dissertations.  This is currently open for entries (deadline 1 July 2021), full details can be obtained via the link https://www.ukdataservice.ac.uk/use-data/student-resources/dissertation-award.aspx.  

OECD Statistics  

A wealth of online statistics are available from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with topics including economics, energy, education, health, innovation & technology, and government among others. The statistics can be browsed by topic/country or a key word search carried out. The statistics cover 37 OECD member states and can be viewed in chart, map and table formats.  There is also the option to download the statistics in CVS format. Available from: https://data.oecd.org/ 

IEA data & statistics 

A comprehensive record of world energy statistics is provided by the International Energy Agency.  Whilst the data is for purchase, the statistics are generally available free of charge. Available from: https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics  

UNESCO: Institute for Statistics 

Part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, the Institute for Statistics (UIS) collects statistics from around the world on various topics related to education, culture, science, technology, and innovation.  The UIS provides free access to data for all UNESCO countries and regional groupings from 1970 to the most recent available year. Available from: http://data.uis.unesco.org/

If you are unable to access the particular statistics required for your dissertation via the portals listed above, these may be found in other databases searchable via the registry of research data repositories (see below).  It may be that the raw data are provided and the statistics need to be generated. 

Datasets

re3data.org

If you are seeking raw datasets rather than data summaries, the Registry of Research Data Repositories – re3data.org – provides information on over 2000 research data repositories from every domain and in every country. You can browse by subject, country, or content type. 

The registry holds, amongst others, details of the Research Data Leeds Repository (RDLR) which is the institutional research data repository for the University of Leeds. The service aims to facilitate data discovery and data sharing. The repository houses data generated by researchers at the University of Leeds.  A potential benefit of using datasets from this repository is that academics might be more willing to address queries from Leeds students.  

Data Mill North

If you are looking for local sources of data then Data Mill North (https://datamillnorth.org/) is worth exploring. It prides itself on being the first platform in the country that brings Open Data information from multiple sectors across the city of Leeds. To mark Open Data Day earlier this year, the Data Mill produced a blog showcasing the quirkiest and funniest open datasets out there such as data on abandoned shopping trolleys in rivers. 

Working with statistics and data 

Once you’ve got your hands on all this information, what do you do next? If you need help working with statistics and data, one-to-one support is provided by Skills@Library. This is available to all taught students at the university, and more details are available via the website: https://library.leeds.ac.uk/info/14012/mathematics.

FreeImages. [no date]. Data capture background concept. [Online]. [Accessed 20 October 2020]. Available from: http://www.freeimages.co.uk/