Editor’s note: This is the first of what will be monthly posts about how to use digital and data tools on Journalist’s Toolbox. Check back each month for new tools, tips and tricks.
Google launched its Dataset Search tool in November 2018 to help researchers locate data that is freely available for use. Google targeted the tool to scientists and data journalists, but anyone looking for a dataset can use it to find free — and some paid — datasets with descriptions.
The database contains millions of datasets posted by academic researchers, non-profit organizations, companies and government agencies. To have a dataset appear in the database, developers must format the data and provide detailed information about the dataset to Google’s satisfaction.
The search company’s reasoning: Datasets are easier to find when organizations provide supporting information such as their name, description, creator and distribution formats as structured data. According to the tool’s about page, Google’s approach to dataset discovery “makes use of schema.org and other metadata standards that can be added to pages that describe datasets.”
- When you go to DatasetSearch.research.google.com, you’ll find a search field along with two practice datasets underneath. The “Learn More” link takes you to the details for adding a dataset to the search tool.
- Let’s do a search for datasets on U.S. mass shootings. There are several good ones that the media cite regularly, but they can sometimes be hard to find. Type it into the field and hit return.
- You’ll get a new page that has navigation down the left side, filters across the top and details of the first dataset listed in the main workspace to the right. Click on the tabs down the left toolbar to look at the different datasets. Note some are more detailed than others.
- Now click on some of the filters at the top of the interface. Click the Free button and it filters out the paid datasets from the search (primarily Statista). Then go to the pulldown menu to the left and select “Download format” to pick the type of file you want. You also can filter by publish date, usage rights (most are rights-free) and broad topics.
- To download a dataset, click on the blue button at the top of the main interface to go to that site’s download page.
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