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Help: Data Sets - Read Me

When you choose a data set to view, you will often see a README file at the top of the list. In order to find and use the data you are seeking, it is very important to read this document. The README document contains at least three pieces of important information for you:

1. Table or file contents

When you choose a data set, you may get a list of numbered tables or files to choose from.  Often, you cannot tell what file contains your data by looking at the name of the file.  In order to see what data is contained in these files, you must read the README file. For example, if you want data on consumption of pineapples, you need the data set called Food Consumption put out by ERS. But you will not know that data for pineapples is in Table 25 unless you read the README file.

2. Opening data files

Some of the data files are in a format that requires special software and instructions to open. We try to give assistance on how to open these files in our HELP section, but the README file contains detailed instructions that may be unique to that data set. Make sure to read them over. Many of these data sets are Lotus 1-2-3 format files that can be opened with your favorite statistical or spreadsheet package (such as Microsoft Excel). Some of the files are in ASCII text format. Some older programs are packaged with software and require a computer with MS-DOS capability.

3. Data development and interpretation

Often a subject-area data specialist will be identified in the README file.   Questions concerning the development or interpretation of data sets should be addressed to this individual.

 

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