Finding Credible Statistics on the Web

Finding Credible Statistics on the WebIn many cases, the key to creating unique, captivating content is the inclusion of interesting, relevant data. Such data can enhance an argument, prove a point, or lure in potential readers. The difference between a normal article and custom content is made by the inclusion of not only keywords, but also facts and statistics that will create a compelling piece, lure in readers, and support your company’s ultimate end goal: more business.

While it is easy to accept the basic premise that statistics are important to the content development process, it is still important to remember that this rule only applies if the facts are strong and reliable. For content to be enhanced by the inclusion of statistics and other forms of data, the information must be current, reliable, and directly related to the central objective of the piece. It is thus crucial to, first and foremost, determine the best means of locating such information.

Finding credible statistics online can be tricky. The internet contains so much information that is constantly evolving, that it becomes necessary to learn how to extract the useful information from the sea of random data. Google and other such search engines can be incredibly useful in the pursuit of this goal, but it is important to understand how to use them strategically to find what you need.

1. Develop a Plan of Action

Before conducting any research, it is important to think about a few key questions: What am I looking for? What is my objective? What do I want these statistics to prove?

Once you have a clear notion of the kind of data you are looking for, and what you plan to do with that information, it becomes possible to develop a list of search terms. These terms should clearly reflect not only your topic, but also the tone and objective of your piece.

For example, if the content in development pertained to the rising cost of higher education, you might want to find statistics to support this point. However, while statistics commenting on the exact amount that costs have risen might be useful, they will not ultimately help you create unique custom content. It is therefore important to consider your objective; in this case, the authors are a bankruptcy law firm, whose objective is to inform the public of their options if they face bankruptcy from college loans. It therefore would be useful to also include some statistics pertaining to the number of people becoming bankrupt from college loans, as opposed to those who had established college funds or followed other preventative steps.

Such focused research ensures that statistics will be relevant, up-to-date, and in support of the article’s central message.

2. Consider experts in the field

Sometimes the best source of valid statistics will be a corporation, nonprofit, or government entity in the field. Many large companies conduct their own studies and will have reports posted on their websites. Newspapers also often will report on particularly interesting statistical findings, so it is worthwhile to search recognized news sources as well.

Otherwise, it is possible to gather statistics by searching with keywords such as “trends,” “study,” or “reports.” In some cases, you may locate valuable statistics by reading blog entries, or other articles on similar topics, which may cite a particular study that would be of use to you.

In all cases, it is important to utilize a certain amount of judgement when determining if statistics are reliable enough to include in your article. If the numbers are attributed to a specific study—in many cases such reports will also include a detailed methodology—they are usually considered reliable. However, if you decide to use such statistics in your content development project, be sure to remember to cite sources.

3. Know when a Statistic is Unreliable

The most important element in locating statistics for use in a content development project is to ensure that all of your data is accurate and credible. No statistics should be included that are more than a year old, unless there is a specific reason for doing so. It is also advisable to include only statistics that are attributed to a specific study and can therefore be sourced directly.

In essence, the most useful statistics are going to be those that come from recognizable sources; it is not only irresponsible to include unsupported facts, it is counterproductive. Readers will be more convinced by a statistic that is relevant, up-to-date, and based in fact rather than supported by unsubstantiated declarations.

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Kate Boehme is the lead researcher for Content Equals Money. She has a MA in Imperial and Commonwealth History and is currently a PhD candidate in History at Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Her ability to find quality statistics and key sources make the most of any project.

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