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