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Finding Statistics Online: How to Locate the Elusive Numbers You Need By Paula Berinstein & Susanne Bjorner (Editor)

Jacket: Paperback
Pages: 320 pages
Publisher: Information Today Inc; (May 1998)
Genre: Reference
ISBN: 0910965250

Comments about the author: About the author -- Paula Berinstein is the Executive Vice President of Product Strategy for Paula Hollywood Inc., a software company specializing in animation products.
Vist the author's website

Review: A researcher approaches the reference desk and asks how she can find the latest figures on terrorist incidents in the United States. Another approaches asking to learn how much money was spent to make the movie "Independence Day." Can you answer these questions using online resources that are available from your library? Possibly. However, if you have read Berinstein's book, that answer quickly becomes Probably.

Paula Berinstein has put together a comprehensive work that covers the Internet as well as other fee based online services. The author leads off her work with a detailed Table of Contents and Table of Figures. These are complimented by a pointer to the Directory of Online Statistical Sources locate on the Berinstein Research Web Site. This site is a companion to the book and attempts to keep users up-to-date on trends effecting the discovery and use of online statistical sources. The book contains nineteen chapters, four appendices and a solid forty-three page index. Throughout the book, the author uses a conversational tone with her readers that serves to ease the user into the complexities of statistics discovery and retrieval.

The first chapter of the book is a Quick Start designed for those familiar with online searching and statistics. This chapter contains brief abstracts as well as general and specific online services that are commonly available. The reader is presented sections dealing with availability, costs, features and benefits as well as drawbacks of these sites. The chapter also includes several comparison charts and tips on search strategy.

Chapter two is a primer on statistics. Here the reader will receive a brief overview of the types of statistics one might find online. Concepts such as raw numbers, percentages, averages and standard deviation are clearly defined on a low level so as to make these abstractions available to the broadest audience. The author also discusses methodologies of data collection and analysis that are common in statistical reporting.

Chapter three concentrates on giving the reader an understanding of who generates and publishes statistics. These providers are broken out into fifteen broad categories that range from government agencies to individual researchers. The author takes a brief look at each of these categories with much of the text devoted to the federal government. This chapter provides easy to read bulleted lists that point to sites where the user will find statistical information and screen captures that allow the reader to see what he or she should be looking at when using the links provided by the author.

The fourth chapter provides the reader with general search tips. In this chapter, the author presents the reader with tips for choosing statistical sources and combines these with advice on formulating search strategies. The core of this chapter is the author's construction of figures and word lists that cause the reader to think not only of where to find statistics but how statistics might be presented on any site or service. Also provided in this chapter are tips on searching specific services such as DIALOG, STN, DataStar and others.

Chapters five through eighteen are "subject-specific" and deal with finding statistics in particular subject areas. These subject areas range from demographics and population to transportation statistics. Each of these chapters details common types of data to be found, key producers of this data, best places to find these data and an extremely useful case study. These case studies present the reader with a reference question and methodically steps through the process involved in the discovery of a correct answer. Users will see the purpose of the exercise, reference question, likely sources to use, access points used to find the data and the system where the searcher discovered the answer. The author then reviews the search methodology and presents figures captured from the search service to augment the discussion.

Following her summary, Berinstein presents the reader with four appendices designed to round-out the content of the book. Appendix A provides contact information for a set of information providers, many of which were mentioned throughout the book. Appendix B lists the case studies presented in this book while Appendix C presents a useful glossary of statistical terms. The final appendix contains a bibliography of works useful to the author in construct of the book. This is also to be seen as a "further reading" section. As mentioned earlier, the index is comprehensive and easy to use.

— Reviewed by: Timothy E. McMahon, M.S.


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