UCB Libraries

NCWR 1126 Grant Writing:
Introduction to Data

Information on Grants and Writing

Use this Guide to find general resources for researching, locating and writing grants.

Places to Start for Data

  • Statistical Abstract of the United States
    This site links to tables for data collected for the US, by all the various agencies. You can browse using the topic areas on the left, or search using the search box on the left. My favorite feature is that you can actually follow the link at the bottom of a table to more data. For example, if you go to this table on marital status: http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2011/tables/11s0056.pdf, at the bottom of the table is the citation with a live link to the US Census Bureau's page for more data, with different granularity. So, Statistical Abstract is both a source of data and an index/guide to other US data publications and sources.
  • Census Bureau   
    Census A-Z Subject List
    Know the topic you are interested in? You can use the subject list to take you straight to a page listing the various data sets and reports on that topic. While there are some links to non-demographic and economic figures, these pages do not have all the data produced by the US.
  • Statistical Insight
    This database is a helpful finding aid when searching for possible sources of statistical information, with access to full-text items and bibliographic information spanning Government, Commercial, and public data. The three components of the database are American Statistical Index (ASI), Index to International Statistics (IIS), and Statistical Reference Index (SRI). A similarly useful index to statistics in print is Statistics Sources.

Two Places to Find Census Data

American Factfinder

This site is the place to go for data sets from the Census Bureau.

Basic Demographic Information

The video above will walk you through finding quick demographic information on a community. Or you can follow these steps:

  1. Choose "Geographies" on the left.
  2. Type the name of your community in the box.
  3. Choose your community by clicking on the name. Make sure it shows up in the upper left corner of the screen behind your box.
  4. Type "dp" in the search box.
  5. Choose the profile that has the information you need.
Note: Currently the American Community Survey Profiles will not come up using this strategy, nor are they available for all communities. Hopefully this will be fixed soon.

Advanced Searching

The video above will walk you through advanced searching in American Factfinder. Or alternatively, you can follow these steps:
  1. Choose "Geographies" on the left.
  2. Type the name of your community in the box.
  3. Choose your community by clicking on the name. Make sure it shows up in the upper left corner of the screen behind your box.
  4. Clear search results and search for additional communities, adding them all using the steps above.
  5. In topic, choose your data set. Tips:
    American Community Survey (ACS) is conducted yearly and provides the most detailed timely demographic data. Use 5-year estimates (not yet in the new Factfinder interface) whenever possible.
    Summary File Data (SF) This is from the main decennial census, for 2010 forward this only contains basic population characteristics. Summary File 3 and 4 served the same purpose as the ACS in previous surveys.
  6. Search for the information you need or browse using the topics on the left.
  7. Choose the data table that has the information you need.

+ Legacy American Factfinder Directions

These are the main features of this site:

Fact Sheets
This is a quick way to get information on the United States. To limit this to your community fill out the box in the top right corner. For example:

  • Put in Boulder, CO.
  • This will let you choose either the city or county of Boulder. (choose the county)
  • On this table, you can choose "show more" to see additional variables. Try it with Social Characteristics.
  • Want to download this data to create charts or graphs? Click Print/Download in the upper right corner and choose download. You can save the data as an excel file for later use.
Factfinder screenshot
Notes on Fact Sheets:

The default data that appears is from the American Community Survey (ACS).  The ACS collects and produces population and housing information every year instead of every ten years. About three million housing unit addresses are selected annually, from every county in the nation. Collecting data every year provides more up-to-date information throughout the decade about the U.S. population at the local community level.


Group Quarters: "Group quarters" data was not collected in the ACS until 2006. Group quarters include such places as college residence halls, residential treatment centers, skilled nursing facilities, group homes, military barracks, correctional facilities, and workers' dormitories. While this data was collected from 2006, it will not be available in all ACS data until after the 2010 census comes out (in 2011 or 2012).

Availability/Estimate Size: Note: The larger the time period covered, the more accurate the estimate. I would recommend using 5-year estimate sets for most data queries. Beginning with the 2005 ACS, and continuing every year thereafter, one-year estimates are available for geographic areas with a population of 65,000 or more. This includes the nation, all states and the District of Columbia, all congressional districts, approximately 800 counties, and 500 metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, among others. Beginning with the 2008 ACS and continuing every year, three year estimates are available for geographic areas with a population of 20,000 or more, including the nation, all states and the District of Columbia, all congressional districts, approximately 1,800 counties, and 900 metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, among others. For areas with a population less than 20,000, five-year estimates from 2005 to 2009 are now available. Figuring out which estimates to use can be tricky, for assistance, check out the Census Bureau's handy FAQ on this topic.

Remember when reporting data from the ACS to include the Margin of Error.

Custom Data Sets (ACS or Decennial Census)
Use the same methodology to create custom data sets from the American Community Survey or decennial census.

If you prefer to follow the steps, check out the instructions under the video. To view the video in full screen, click the tiny monitor icon in the bottom right corner. Step-by-Step instructions, as demoed in the video above:
  • Choose the appropriate data sets. In most cases the larger year samples are better to use, but if you only want to examine one year or have more current data, use the one-year samples (which only exist for communities larger then 65,000).
  • Choose "Custom Table" in the box to the right of the data set.
  • First, you need to select your geographic location. This can be done down to the zip code or block level. Choose a variety of levels, to see how this works. Here is a step-by-step example for a selection of US, state, and city level data:
    • Choose "County" in the first box
    • Click "Colorado" in second box.
    • Click "Boulder County" in the third box.
    • Click "Add" at the bottom of the colored section.
    • Choose "Place" in the first box.
    • Choose "Colorado in the second box.
    • Click "Boulder city" in the third box.
    • Click "Add" at the bottom of the colored section.
    • You should see three places in the box under the Add.
    • Click Next
  • Now you are selecting your variables. Unless you know exactly what you are looking forward, the second tab "by subject" is easiest to use. So click on that. Follow these steps for a sample set of data:
    • Choose "Population Totals" under the "Population and Housing Unit Totals and Geographic Concepts," then click search.
    • Choose "B01003. Total Population," then click go.
    • Check the box next to total, then click Add.
    • Your choice should appear in the bottom box.
    • Now go back to the top and Choose "Ancestry" under the "Population Totals Race and Ethnic Groups," then click search.
    • Numerous choices will appear, you want to choose the "C04003. Total Ancestry Reported," then click go. (Note: B tables are more detailed and go more in-depth, whereas C tables are collapsed to bigger categories. For smaller communities with detailed questions C often gives you more results.)
    • A new box will appear with a list of all the ancestries people filled in. Check the ones of interest to you. Then click "Add."
    • The ones you chose should appear in the box under the "Add." Then click next.
  • Ignore those boxes on the bottom of the screen, just choose "Show Result."
  • Here is your table!
  • Want to download the data? Choose "print/download" and then "download" and choose your preferred format.
  • If you want to add or subtract variables, click on the link Data Elements at the top.  If you want to add or subtract geographical elements, click on the Geography link.

Social Explorer
This is a subscription database that is only available on campus, but it has great maps and data sets you won't find in American Factfinder.

Maps (you can also click maps on the home page)

These maps are available back to 1790. Now before you get too excited, the data for Colorado doesn't go back that far. The data must have been collected in the Decennial Census, so the 1880 census is the first one with data for Colorado.

Want to save this? Well, currently there is only one option for saving, exporting it to Power Point (which you can find under "file" on the left above the map).

Reports (again you can also click reports on the home page)

Data is available back to 1790, but by decade. You can also find a nice set of data on religion back to 1980 on these pages from the Association of Religion Data archives.

This database works exactly the same as the American Factfinder data sets, except that in some cases it will not have the search and subject capabilities you had in Factfinder.

Colorado Government Statistical Information
Guide to selected print and electronic publications, as well as web sites, maintained by state agencies in Colorado.

Tips for Finding Statistical Data

  • Who would be tracking this data? Can you identify a governmental source (federal, state or local or maybe all three? Can you identify an organization? Find their web site and look for links with the words, data or statistics or reports or research.
  • Who would be using this information? For example, other researchers might have tracked this data and used it in a published article or book. Look for publications on your topic and see if they include data, graphs or tables. Look at the footnotes for the source of the information.
  • Sometimes you will need to expand the universe of your data. If you need small area statistics, such as a school district and you can’t find data at that level, you might try looking for city county or zip code data instead.
  • If you find data that is similar but not exactly what you are looking for, it’s worth contacting the organization or the person listed as the author. For government agencies or organizations, there is usually a Contact Us link. For articles or books, you can usually find an email or address for the author. People are often very responsive to your requests.
  • Looking for really current data? It usually takes some time for data to be collected and reported.
Looking for Journal Articles?

  • Business Source Premier CU
    Contains full-text journals in all disciplines of business, management, accounting, finance and economics. Additional full text, non-journal content includes financial data, investment research reports, industry reports, market research reports, and more.
  • ERIC
    ERIC provides unlimited access to more than 1.3 million bibliographic records of journal articles and other education-related materials, with hundreds of new records added multiple times per week. If available, links to full text are included.
  • Google Scholar
    This database is free to search, but accessing the articles still requires VPN. This is a good interdisciplinary resource when you are unsure what area your research will reside in.
  • PsycInfo CU
    Index with citations and summaries of journal articles, book chapters, books, dissertations, and technical reports, covering psychology and the psychological aspects of related discipline.
  • Find Articles and More
    Provides links by subject for library databases.
To access the libraries’ subscription databases from off-campus, you will need to download a piece of software called VPN, which you can find from the library web page. You must have an Identikey and password to use the VPN.

Research and Subject Guides Database
This database contains all the guides produced by librarians at CU-Boulder. While there are guides to statistics in here, there are also guides to topics that might lead you to the group that produces a particular statistical resource

Need more help?

We are always happy to answer questions or set up appointments to have a more in-depth discussion of your research.

Leanne Walther   Research Desk (2nd floor)
leanne.walther@colorado.edu   govpubs@colorado.edu
303-735-5750   303-492-8834