USP 300U - Introduction to Urban Studies: Community Research

Course guide to support the data lab assignment in Portland State University's Introduction to Urban Studies class

Researching Your Community

In order to begin to understand cities, it is important to understand the communities within them. While you may feel like you already know something about a particular community, you should research to find evidence about that community. You want to get the whole picture. Questions that may help guide this research include:

  • Who lives in the community or who is a community member?
  • What is it like to be a part of that community?
  • What are the community's defining characteristics?

This page points you to resources for demographic information. Using demographics can help you form a rich, data-driven picture of your community, and it enables you to better understand the social context behind the problem you are trying to solve.

As you explore data, consider the following:

  • Who gathered and reported this data? Why?
  • Whom does the data include? Whom does it exclude?
  • What other sources of information could complement this data to provide a deeper understanding of the city you're researching?

What are and why use demographics?

"The term demographics refers to particular characteristics of a population. The word is derived from the Greek words for people (demos) and picture (graphy). Examples of demographic characteristics include age, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, income, education, home ownership, sexual orientation, marital status, family size, health and disability status, and psychiatric diagnosis."

-Lee, M., & Schuele, C. (2010). Demographics. In Neil J. Salkind (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Research Design. (pp. 347-348). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. 

Demographics Sources

Other Statistical Sources

Get Started with Social Explorer

4 Step Guide to Community Profile Reports in PolicyMap

1. Click on Reports Click on reports

2. Select Community Profile as your report type and enter in the the location. Location can be a city, state, zip code, or census tract.

Community profile report typelocation can be city, state, zip code, or census tract

3. Click on generate report. This should appear in the upper right hand side of the screen above the map display.

Click on generate report

4. Wait for your report to load, and then explore the data.

Non-US Data Sources