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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

How to Find Data : Library Catalog

Data in the Library Catalog

The library catalog is not just for finding books! The library's collection includes a variety of different data sources, including datasets.U of I Collection; Search for materials among the University Library's 14 million items.

There are a number of ways that you can find data using the university's library catalog -- this page will present the steps for searching within the catalog as well as using OCLC FirstSearch (WorldCat).

To begin searching the catalog, navigate to the library's catalog search page. You can find this on the library's homepage, under the Find Materials tab. Clicking there will bring you to the library’s catalog interface. From there, you can conduct a basic search in the main search box, or click “ADVANCED SEARCH” next to the main search box. 

Learn more about using the library catalog.

Library catalog search bar.

On the Advanced Search page, you can combine some of the data search terms below with your keywords in order to help locate useful sources. One way to do this is to use the “Any field,” “Title” or “Subject” limiter in one of the lines, and then set the second line to “Subject.” In the first line, you can enter your topic.  In the second line, you can use some of the data-related keywords listed below – for example “data*.” The two search lines will be connected with a Boolean operator – AND. This means that your results must include the words in both of the search lines. Learn more about Boolean operators here. 

Library catalog advanced search bar showing the dropdown tabs.


Data-Related Search Terms

The first step to finding data in the library catalog is to know what to search for. Data and datasets can be indexed under different resource or subject types.

While searching for data, try using some of the keywords below:

  • data*
  • statistic*
  • table* or tabular
  • survey*
  • poll*
  • census*
  • longitudinal
  • public opinion
  • directory or directories
  • almanac*

Search results

Once you hit the search button, your results will be listed below the search box. On the left side of the screen, there is a column of different filters, under the header "Tweak your results." You may be able to utilize these to narrow down your results.

For example, under Resource Type, you may be able to limit your results to "Datasets," "govdoc" (for government documents) or “Reports.” You can also limit by the author/creator, date range, and more.

After clicking on the title of a result from your list, you may also find information that is helpful for future searches. Under the “Subject” section in the catalog record, look at the words – for example “climate data.” Clicking on that term will generate a new results list of all the other items with that same term as a subject. You can also use this term in the advanced search along with other keywords. 

OCLC FirstSearch

WorldCat advanced search page.







OCLC FirstSearch is a search tool to help navigate WorldCat, which searches through the catalogs of thousands of libraries and institutions around the world. You can use OCLC FirstSearch in a way that is similar to the UIUC library catalog.  In particular, under the dropdown menus you can find "Material Type;" relevant material types to search for include the phrase "numeric data."  By setting Material Type=Numeric Data, you can retrieve the catalog records for datasets.











You can also limit the results to only display items that are available through the UIUC library; this is an enhancement to the search capabilities in the UIUC Library catalog, so you may be able to identify additional datasets in the UIUC collection through OCLC FirstSearch. You can also search wider to determine what datasets are held at other institutions, and potentially request items from other libraries via interlibrary loan.