In the essay that I'm writing, I claim that women are more likely to be victims of abduction than are men. As evidence, I cite a study on child abduction (the NISMART, if you must know) stating that the majority of kidnapped children were females. Because abductions rarely happen, any data on abductions in general (child and adult), if it exists, is very difficult to find, even with a search in my college library's databases.

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    Usually the police and related institutions create and publish criminal statistics. If kidnappings are not listed separately, you could inquire with the relevant institution of your country.
    – user5645
    Dec 7, 2014 at 10:52
  • For example, here is the data for Australia: aic.gov.au/dataTools/facts/vicGenderCrime.html
    – user5645
    Dec 7, 2014 at 10:53
  • If you have problems finding resources for your country, OpenData.SE is the site to ask.
    – SF.
    Dec 8, 2014 at 11:41
  • @what: For United States crime data, I look at the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting data (a compilation of data from the FBI and local police agencies) or the National Crime Victimization Survey data. Unfortunately, adult abductions are so much of a non-concern that I could not find usable data.
    – moonman239
    Apr 23, 2015 at 16:40
  • @moonman239 Have you tried contacting the FBI? There is probably a note attached to that publication saying which office or officer compiled the data, and you could ask them if the data yoi seek is available. If your reason to request that data is valid, they migjt actually give you that information. If you work or study at some institution such as a university, use your official email address, gice details about what you do and who you do it for etc. I've often found that people are quite helpful if they think what you do is meaningful.
    – user5645
    Apr 23, 2015 at 16:51

2 Answers 2


If you don't have enough reliable data to support your claims, then you should state that your findings are based on certain assumptions. It would further help your cause if you then give explanations for why you made those assumptions. Before you do this, however, you should probably make more of an effort to locate data to support your position. Relying solely on your college library is going to be very limiting.

  • "Before you do this, however, you should probably make more of an effort to locate data to support your position. Relying solely on your college library is going to be very limiting." Couldn't find the information on Google, either.
    – moonman239
    Dec 12, 2014 at 0:26
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    Sometimes you need to be willing to do some real research if you want to have some real data. Having said that, I found four sites on Google with very relevant data, so you may want to reconsider what you are looking for. One in particular was a gold mine of information, but sometimes you have to work a little harder to find what you need. Some states have better information than others, but there is information out there. Dec 12, 2014 at 1:32

As this answer says, it's important to state your assumptions, whatever they are.

Sometimes there just isn't enough data, though, and I understand your question to be about what to do in that case. There are two basic approaches:

  • Only write about things you can back up. For example, Consumer Reports publishes ratings, including predicted reliability, of all new cars once a year. They list everything, but where they have insufficient data they just leave out the predicted reliability. That doesn't stop them from reporting other things about those cars or making recommendations. They're saying "we don't know this, but we can say these other things".

  • Be more liberal in what you write but be explicit about what data you're basing it on. You'll sometimes see news analyses of, say, crime patterns, with a note like "in 2011, the last year for which data is available, ..." -- well, it's 2015 now and 2011 data might not tell us enough, but it's the best they have so they extrapolate from it. In this approach you leave it to the reader to decide how much that matters.

In your essay, if you need to talk about abductions in general and you only have data for child abductions, you can take the latter approach. Say what you base your conclusions on, and perhaps you can anticipate and pre-emptively address arguments about why that data isn't representative.

The other approach is to focus your essay on what you can directly support with data, in this case writing about child abductions rather than all of them.

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