When starting a search for data, there are a few key concepts you must keep in mind.
Once you start looking for data, think about what kind of data you need. Do you need summary statistics (i.e., not raw data)? Do you need raw numeric data to run your own analysis? Do you need plain text to create a word cloud or perform other text mining methods?
It's useful to first think of what information you need (I need information on climate change funding) and then think of what data you need (I need a spreadsheet that breaks down each country's expenditures on climate change initiatives by year).
A few sources for data are highlighted on this guide. If you're not able to find data on your topic from these, check to see if a research guide contains Data and Statistics or reach out to a librarian for help.
Important note: Always try to download your data in Comma-Separated Values / CSV (extension .csv) format. Some tools accept Excel formats (extension .xls or .xlsx), but all will accept CSV files. Excel files are proprietary to the Excel software program, but CSV is a widely recognized and used format for tabular data.
For numeric and statistical data, know what you're looking at. If you see averages, trends, or medians, you're likely looking at data that's already been analyzed (someone has run statistical processes on the raw data). Depending on your project and needs, you might need only summary statistics or raw data.