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National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology (NICHSR)

Successful Search Strategies
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To effectively search for health statistics, you need to be aware of the particular approach an agency uses to release and disseminate its results. These reflect different professional perspectives regarding the role of the agencies and authors—ranging from those who focus on statistical reporting of trends to those for whom statistical material is ancillary to a broader research mission.

There are a number of approaches. Agencies might:
  • Send reports to a scholarly journal,
  • Issue an agency report,
  • Provide tables and graphs online,
  • Allowing users to generate their own tables or 
  • Issue public use data sets.

Statistical results—the particular number, answer or data you need—may be hiding in the deep structure of a report or table. This means that simple searches will fail to retrieve all of the relevant material. You need to work with the natural structure of statistical material to find the best answers.

The following guidelines define key elements to consider when designing a search strategy based on what we know about how statistical work is organized.

Working with those structures that flow from the social context of data collection, analysis and reporting is most likely to be successful.
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