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Research Guides

Finding Data for Psychology Research

Data and psychology

Data are key to conducting research in the field of psychology. Different types of data are collected to support different types of research, such as:

  • Descriptive research: research which can describe characteristics, behaviours, or opinions of research subjects, but does not answer questions about whether variables are correlated or causally related to one another. Examples of data supporting descriptive research includes case studies, surveys (e.g. census data, public opinion polls), and naturalistic observation.
  • Correlational research: research which investigates the relationships between two or more variables. Examples of data supporting correlational research include laboratory & field collected data, as well as large social surveys.
  • Experimental research: research which are designed to control the effects of variables other than the independent variable of interest, in order to draw conclusions about causal relationship. Data to support experimental research is generally collected in a laboratory setting.

Who collects data used in psychology research?

As a student, often you are not in a position to collect your own data, so you must rely upon existing publicly available data to conduct secondary analysis. Who collects such data?

  • Researchers. Faculty & graduate students collect data as part of their research, and in some cases, they share this data with others. 
  • Government bodies. Governments collect data through their administrative processes (e.g. data on hospital visits). Also, national statistical agencies conduct major social surveys which are key sources of data for scholarly research.
  • Commercial entities. Private companies collect data and sell/license access to it. For example, public opinion polls are often conducted within the private sector, as are clinical trials. The University of Toronto Libraries licenses some commercial data for use by U of T students. 
  • Other organizations. NGOs, non-profits, and professional associations are all examples of organizations that may collect data.

How can you find psychological data?

Your best place to start is by searching in one or more data repositories. There are different repositories for government & researcher-generated data. The key ones are listed on the tabs of this guide.

You may also need to identify key government agencies that might collect relevant data, and explore their websites.

If you're having difficulties finding what you need, please contact the Map & Data Library for assistance!