May 24, 2018 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
Infographics are an easy and engaging content tool to show your audience large data sets in an easy-to-read format. But infographics aren’t just pretty pictures to spruce up other content. They have to be informative and factually accurate for the audience to pay attention. You can increase the credibility of these pieces of content by using the right sources for infographic data. Today, we’re discussing how you can choose the right reference material with topics like:
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No matter what topic you choose for an infographic, use credible sources to mine the data for the project. Credible sources are trustworthy and factually accurate. If you create content that isn’t reliable, you’re going to lose the confidence and trust of your audience. You could also receive penalties from Google when trying to rank your infographic content in search or receive social media warnings over your infographic posts claiming inaccurate information. Both consequences hurt your chances of building an audience and a good brand reputation. When evaluating a source to determine its credibility, consider:
The sources you use to find data for your infographics vary based on the subject of the content. Whether you’re creating one for your own brand, or you’re working with agency clients to help reach their audience, it’s important to know the different types of data sources available for research. Here is a list of data repositories you can use to find current, accurate, and interesting data for all your infographic needs:
If your company conducts its own research studies, you already have a wealth of data and statistics within your brand network. Company data is some of the most credible information you can get for your infographics. You likely have the ability to speak with the researchers and discuss the findings with them to learn how they conducted the study and came to the conclusions they found. This type of data is helpful for promotional content, stakeholder presentations, and in-person conference or trade show visuals.
Other companies in your industry or related markets that conduct their own research are common infographic data sources, too. Most publish their data and reports publically, meaning you can view them and cite them in your infographics with no legal backlash. You may use other companies’ data if your brand doesn’t do its own research, or if you’re comparing your team’s findings with other similar studies in the industry.
Colleges and universities are breeding grounds for academic research and statistical data. Students and educators often partner with these organizations to fund, run, and publish findings about a variety of data-rich studies. Following the conclusion of each one, the reports typically appear within the university data repositories. Many of these resources and databases are free to the public, though some may require special permissions or consent to use. Most university library systems, like the one at Drexel University in Philadelphia, offer open access to these types of reports that you can browse online from anywhere.
Local, state, federal, and international government agencies and nonprofits have entire divisions dedicated to research studies and statistics. No matter what topic you’re covering in your infographic, there is likely a government source and data study to back it up with credible facts. The official U.S. government website lists a variety of helpful resources for information on businesses, people, and geography. Here are some niche government categories you may consult when looking for sources of data for infographics:
The Data.gov website is the government’s online source for open data. The repository has over 350,000 data sets on topics like local government, older adults, climate, and energy. Filter data sets by topic, location, organization, or publisher. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) also maintains The World Factbook online. This data source provides basic information and statistics about people, places, communication, transportation, and other transnational issues around the world.
The Census Bureau is the primary source of information about the country’s population. Conducted every 10 years, census data help show things like migration patterns, workforce and economic trends, home ownership, and population demographics. Aside from the most current census, you can use data from past censuses to compare population trends across time. Other resources that give insight into the population include the DAP Public Dashboard, which shows how the population interacts with the government online.
The U.S. government has multiple bureaus and organizations that provide information on the finances of businesses, its own government spending, and the overall economy. Some of these agencies include:
Certain U.S. government agencies collect data about the state of the workforce and business dealings in the country and throughout the world. The Bureau of Labor Statistics explores studies on the current labor market, working conditions, and price changes in the country. The Office of Personnel Management provides statistics about the civilian workforce, and the U.S. Small Business Association provides information about non-corporation-sized companies in the country.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics is the premiere resource for finding crime data for infographics. This organization publishes reports on national justice systems, criminal offenders, and crime types and rates across the country. Other government crime agencies, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), have their own data collections with more niche topics and results.
For crime reports for individual cities or towns throughout the country, most local police forces, like the New York City Police Department (NYPD) publish their own local crime statistics. Many local government organizations, like Allegheny County in Pennsylvania, also share data about its jails and inmate populations. The United States Courts organization shares information about the judicial system, some of which relate to crime data, such as caseload statistics, civil justice reform, and wiretap reports.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics provides information about all modes of transportation throughout the country. Some of its reports include flight arrival and departure performance, piracy at sea, transportation access, and transportation safety. Related organizations like the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) provide data on things like accidents and investigations related to all modes of transportation in the country. Local transit authorities, sometimes overseen by local governments, may also provide route, usage, and safety statistics for their regions.
For infographics about travel and tourism, the U.S. Travel Association provides maps, charts, and data sets to make your case. Look at information such as tourism funding across the country, international travel data, and the impact of sports on travel.
The government has multiple agencies dedicated to monitoring our environment and natural growth capabilities throughout the country. Some organizations that focus on these areas include:
The National Center for Education Statistics researches the state of education in the country. Reports cover information about students and the progress of American learning. The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics also publishes data about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in the country.
Healthdata.gov provides valuable health-related data for all your related infographic projects. The organization pulls data from clinical studies, treatment plans, and Medicare and Medicaid reports to provide a comprehensive look at the health industry.
As a division of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Center for Health Statistics focuses on information concerning improving the health of the American population. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides a dashboard with tools that focus on the quality and safety of products for human consumption. Finally, the National Institute on Drug Abuse collects data on trends of drug use and distribution throughout the country.
The U.S. Department of Defense provides facts and statistics about the Army and the Navy branches of the national military. Individual military branches like the Army and the Air Force also collect their own data. Most military data sources cover information like active duty service members and veteran demographics.
Google provides a variety of tools beyond its search engines to help you collect credible, relevant data for any project. These resources include:
Social media channels and platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram have built-in analytics programs that allow you to track your account’s performance data. You can use this information for marketing infographics to show how well your brand interacts with its audience on these channels. Many of these programs provide charts and graphs you could copy or download to share within your infographics.
Most times, news outlets are credible resources for facts and statistics. These sources include newspapers, journals, radio stations, television news stations, and podcasts. News outlets often share data studies, facts, and statistics based on information they collected from other reputable sources or from interviews and interactions with brand leaders, government officials, or company executives who are trusted sources for that information. If possible, use the sources the news outlets quote for each study or statistic rather than referencing or quoting the outlet itself.
Statistics websites are large online repositories that collect data studies from a variety of different sources to share in one place. Services like Statista, Gapminder, and WolframAlpha are quality sites for finding more niche data studies, like mobile phone usage in the United States. Certain statistics websites focus on data from a specific topic or industry, such as the Million Song Dataset, which covers information about audio features and metadata of music.
Some individual healthcare organizations collect their own data for a variety of studies and purposes. Some organizations that fall into this category may include hospitals, medical insurance providers, and public health clinics. Healthcare organizations may also partner with other entities to share data in the field. For example, the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance is a combined effort from UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University. The organization’s goal is to make healthcare data more accessible for patients and their healthcare providers.
Universities, think tanks, and nonprofit organizations may run public research studies to find new data on a variety of topics. Some of the most common study topics include public health, politics, and education. Organizations like the Pew Research Center and RAND Corporation collect reports of these findings to share with the public, businesses, and educational institutions.
When looking for political information for your infographics, it’s best to turn to reputable polling organizations. These services are supposed to be unbiased and reflect the opinions of voters, not a particular political party. Polls from sources like Gallup or ABC’s Project FiveThirtyEight provide nights about candidates, government approval rankings, election results, and predictions.
Although there are many great data sources around the internet for pulling information for your infographics, there are some you should never use, or approach with caution. Here are a few data sources to avoid when researching facts and statistics for your infographics:
Unlike the data you get from social media platform metrics, you can’t always trust what you read in posts. Be cautious when you read a fact or statistic in a social media post, no matter the source. Some information is reputable, but you won’t learn that until you do further investigation. Most credible sources include links back to the original study or data resource when referencing facts online. You can trace this information back to its origin point and use it if it turns out to be credible. Be sure to cite the original source in your infographic rather than the social media post.
Gossip magazines and websites have that name for a reason. This type of information includes rumors and information you can’t prove. The things you hear are purely speculation, and often primarily fictional, said or created to sell issues or encourage engagement with clickbait. Some information published in gossip magazines could be true. If you think that’s the case, you can do further investigating or research to find data to prove your point. But in most cases, it’s easier just to avoid these sources and look for more reputable ones.
You should get all the data and information used in your infographics legally. That means using reports and repositories available to the public or paying for credible research services. You should never use another company’s data that you’ve collected under false pretenses. This practice could damage your trust and reputation with your audience. Using covert or illegal information could get your company into legal trouble, too.
If someone in your audience wants to see the data or proof of statistics in your infographic, you should be ready to provide it. That means including a list of sources used at the bottom of the image or something similar to prove how you did your research. If you find a source of information that doesn’t have a data study to back it up, ignore that source and find another. If you can’t find another source with the same information and proof behind it, the information is likely false.
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