Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Citing Data in the Statistics Classroom

I must admit that, in the past, I haven't done as good of a job with citing datasets as I would like. Occasionally, I'll find a worksheet I made years ago and will want to find the original data. In the back of my mind, I'll recall finding it in one of the dozens of Stats textbooks on my bookshelves but have no idea which one. I probably would have benefited from a data citation in that case.

There are more good reasons to reference datasets, especially for teachers and students. Here are the 7 reasons I think we should citing data in the statistics classroom as well as the best guide on how to do it.
In general, data citations are essential to giving proper credit to those who collected, managed, and even stored the datasets we use. In education, the reasons are both practical as well as ethical:
  1. It helps teachers locate the original data from (their own or other teachers') lessons and activities should they need to return to the source. 
  2. It makes it easier for teachers to share datasets and ideas with other educators.
  3. It strengthens the credibility of the lesson, assignment, or activity.
  4. It provides students with data-retrieval information should they want to investigate further.
  5. It allows teachers to properly evaluate student work that involves the use of datasets.
  6. It reinforces the practice of appropriately using citations for academic work.
  7. It encourages the idea that there are statistically-interesting and interdisciplinary explorations from real-world data.
The good news is that citing data is really easy. While there are no set standards yet for doing so, data citations follow the same general rules as other citations. So far the best explanation of data citation practices I have found is from Hailey Mooney, a subject specialist librarian from Michigan State University: How to Cite Data. It's super clear, concise, but also has lots of information for those who wish or need to know more. This site is the one that I will pass along to my students for guidance.

And even better, some are not shy about letting you know exactly how they want you to cite their data if you use it, like here with the USGS Water Data for the Nation website. I'm fairly certain more sites with publicly available data will be following suit.

A big thanks to the many people from the Syracuse University School of Information Studies who gave me guidance with this post. Go Orange!

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