The success of an infographic depends on the quality of the data you provide. Is it accurate and up-to-date? If not, it’s unlikely to get shared or make the impact you’d like.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t have data scientists or pollsters on our payroll, so how do you find compelling data for your infographic? The internet is often derided for having lots of misinformation (and it does), but it’s also a fount of potential data sources – as long as you know where to look.
Here are a few generally credible sources to peruse.
Wikipedia – Bear with me now. I know many people disparage Wikipedia as a poor source of information. After all, just anybody can edit it, right? Yes, and on occasion, that leads to incorrect information or even personal attacks. But it also means that the data is being checked by just about everybody. And most importantly, when people update an entry, they need to post the original source for the data in the footnotes. That means that you can verify everything yourself. Not sure about the information? Just don’t use it.
Other Infographics – No, I’m not talking about simply ripping off other infographics, but you may find facts on several different infographics that come together to say something new in your infographic. Just like with Wikipedia, you can often find the sources that were used by the infographic in the footnotes. So you can verify the data yourself – or you might even find other data from that source you want to use.
Forrester, Gallup, Nielsen, Google Public Data, and so on. These are all companies that conduct research and polling and then post that information for the public. Pretty useful if you’re trying to put together something with lots of impactful stats that will cause people to sit up and take notice. What kind of information can you find here? Nielsen focuses on entertainment and can tell you what people are watching, reading, listening to, and so on. Gallup and Forrester conduct research and polling on all kinds of things, including political matters. And Google Public Data is a treasure trove, with everything from what infectious diseases are having outbreaks around the world to unemployment rates and information on the penetration of the internet in various markets.
PubMed. Want information from a scientific study that you can break down into easily digestible data for your infographic? This is the place where you’ll find it. There are (as the site’s blurb says) more than 23 million citations here, and you’re guaranteed to get accurate, well-researched information. The only real downside is that the site caters specifically to topics in medicine and science, so if you’re looking for stats outside of those fields, it’s not going to be as useful.
Industry groups and associations. If a profession or hobby exists, you can pretty much guarantee that someone somewhere has created some kind of group or association that people can join. These clubs tend to have lots of information specific to that area or subject, and are generally thrilled to release statistics (especially ones that have a positive spin) to the public. We’re talking about organizations like unions, the NRA, the PTA, and so on. The information that they provide should be thoroughly vetted, but be aware that it’s likely to paint a rosy picture of what they’re doing.
Government sites. If we weren’t all aware of this a few months ago, we certainly are now: the government collects all kinds of information about everything. Creating an infographic about the fastest-growing jobs? Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Trying to show people how addictive drugs are? Head over to SAMHSA. And those sites are only the tip of the iceberg. If there is a topic out there that’s of national interest, there’s a good chance that some government body has research on it and that it’s available to the public.
Magazine and news articles. Whether you’re surfing CNN.com or reading US News and World Report, there’s a very good chance that at some point you’ll come across some new, interesting data that’s been released from scientists or some other scholarly research. Anything that has been shared in this matter is considered to be available for public use, so have at it if you come across something that fits your topic. You can use the citations in the article to look up where the information came from and use the original study as your source – or read it yourself to see if there’s even more interesting info.
Your local library or college. Remember books? Funny story – they still exist! Even better, if you head over to the library you can even use their catalogue system to search for books that have information on the specific subject you’re dealing with. And (obviously, I hope) this goes beyond regular books–magazines and newspapers can be great sources of data for your infographic. Sometimes I think the internet has made us forget how truly useful the library can still be because we’re used to information coming to us instead of having to seek it out. Sometimes, though, it’s worth it.
Contact a professor. And you thought they wouldn’t be useful to you once you got out of school. Here’s the thing: professors tend to be quite knowledgeable about their particular field, and many do ongoing research to stay up-to-date with the latest information and trends. Get in contact with some professors who focus on the field your infographic is about and at the very least they should be able to point you in the direction of some great sources.