Skip to main content

Data and Statistics

This guide helps you get started learning about data and statistics, how to find data and statistics and how to cite them.


This guide gives you a quick overview to many issues you will encounter in finding, accessing, and using data and statistics. It primarily aims to help you find some of the best data sources that UBC provides access to, as well as some sources open to the public.The data sources are organized by geography at the top: Canada, U.S., and World, and then divided by subjects. Independent of the three geographical regions, historical data is listed separately. 

Additionally, you will find guidance on some challenging tasks, such as how to cite data or how to harness the full potential of survey data sources by effectively downloading and analyzing them them.

Follow our twitter feed to see the newest datasets that have been added to Abacus, the library's data catalogue.

Research Data Management

Are you looking for information on Research Data Management? Please check out

Related Guides

Define your data needs - statistics or data?

Before you start browsing the pages of resources in this guide, it is important for you, as the first step, to understand what exactly you are looking for: do you just need some numbers or charts for incorporating them into your reports, or do you need some raw data of a survey to work on? This distinction translates into the difference between two key concepts: statistics and data (or raw data). 

Statistics are the interpretation and summary of data. If you are looking for a quick number to demonstrate “how much” or “how many” you may want a statistic. Statistics are typically presented in tables or charts, and they reflect someone’s interpretation of raw data.

       Table of neighborhood Income and demographic

Source: Statistics Canada. Table  111-0004 -  Neighbourhood income and demographics, summary table, annual (percent unless otherwise noted),  CANSIM (database).


Data or microdata are raw information from which statistics are derived. If you want to get the whole picture in order to develop your own interpretation of something, you may want data. Raw data is a primary source and generally results from surveys and other research methods. Data are usually available in machine-readable formats for use with software programs like Microsoft Excel, SPSS, SAS, or Stata. Below is an example of raw data: 

Source: Honey-Roses, Jordi; Gill, David; Pareja, Claudio, 2016-03-03, "BC MUNICIPAL WATER SURVEY 2016", UNF:5:OFrb2sI9k4hDoMOhnmflsg== V2 [Version]

Define your data needs - geographic, time and level of detail.

Once you have determined whether your need falls under the category of statistics or data, you will also need to consider geography, time and detail.

Geography means which geographical region is the data of your interest about. A lot of survey data is conducted by government departments and so it is often at the country level, although there are exceptions. So if you want statistics about Canada, you would look at Statistics Canada and other sources listed under the tab Data/statistics Sources subpage Canada--Nationwide. In contrast, if you are looking to compare countries, you would be able to get a broader set of comparable statistics by looking at international statistical data sources listed under the tab Data/statistics Sources subpage World, such as World Bank data or OECD.Stat. 

Time period refers to either a particular day, month or year, or a range of time that the statistics or survey data apply to. Some surveys, for example, have are run only once while others can be annual, quarterly or monthly. 

Level of detail in survey data concerns the unit of analysis. What is the survey studying? For example, individuals or households? If information about individuals is required then a household level survey would not be appropriate.

Confidentiality concerns may limit access to data. Generally speaking, data sets will not allow the identification of survey respondents, This requirement will result in data suppression, random rounding or aggregation to a larger unit of analysis. This is particularly noticeable when studying smaller census areas such as dissemination areas.


Data Contact

HSSD Koerner's picture
HSSD Koerner

Phone: 604-822-2725