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Many of us visit the Google search engine daily to find answers to our questions and gather information for independent research. And in a world powered by mobile devices, the best Android phones allow us to access this vast knowledge database anytime we need it. In our quest to find the relevant information we seek, we often visit multiple websites and decide just how accurate their claims are. Worse yet, finding specific data points on a hard-to-research topic can take time and effort, often not giving you the results you were likely hoping for.

The Google Common Knowledge Project lets anyone quickly access reliable civic data from their local community, such as the average household income or educational background of others in an area. With just a few clicks, you can locate and learn about unique datasets that would otherwise be tricky to manage if you only relied on a search engine for your research.

What is the Google Common Knowledge Project?

The Google Common Knowledge Project is a collaborative effort formed by various entities brought together under one platform. Many data points are sourced from official U.S. government databases, giving you a level of trust and accuracy you likely won't see elsewhere. This makes it easy to locate hard-to-find information online, such as how many homes in a single zip code still have a dial-up internet connection. This is especially useful for journalists who write articles that rely on specific numbers and stats to highlight and elevate their talking points.

Although not locked down to journalists exclusively, anyone can use the platform for independent research or general curiosity. You can create a visual dataset to represent specific data points within minutes, which can then be shared with others online.

The Google Common Knowledge Project supports the Google News Initiative, another helpful tool journalists can tap into. Google News Initiative works with verified and trustworthy news sources to expand its reach to more audiences. Journalists and publishers can leverage these tools to create a future with less misinformation while offering more value to the reader, which benefits everyone equally. From small to large companies, they all have access to the same tools to make their work more meaningful in the fast-paced world of news.

Where does the database of information come from?

Since Google is the world's most popular online search engine, we expect the information found to be as relevant as possible. However, relying only on the websites you encounter while using Google is often insufficient for civic data. Rather than letting users decide if the data is accurate, the Google Common Knowledge Project taps into Data Commons for reliable and up-to-date information. Data Commons is a collaboration of various open source databases, including the United States Census Bureau, CDC, and FBI. These official first-party entities offer the most trustworthy data points you'll find anywhere online.

Because the Google Common Knowledge Project is still a work in progress, only a small portion of data from Data Commons is integrated into the platform. The datasets used within the Google Common Knowledge Project are also limited by scope, so be sure to use the data responsibly. Specific datasets may involve multiple variables during the data collection stage, which can cause the information to vary slightly over time or even change in some cases. As the project progresses and expands beyond its beta status sometime in the future, expect more data points and information to become available.

The current Google Common Knowledge Project beta only supports location data from the United States market. Other locations may be added as the platform expands, but this hasn't been officially announced. And you don't need a Google account to create a custom dataset, so anyone can test these features without requiring a login. You can save the charts to your browser so that you can view or print them.

How do the datasets get their visual charts?

Since the Google Common Knowledge Project datasets come from Data Commons, there must be a way to visualize this information for sharing purposes. Polygraph is a company that describes itself as a visual storytelling agency, which is the main driving force behind how these charts are created for the Google Common Knowledge Project.

And now, Polygraph has brought its easy-to-make charts to the Google Common Knowledge Project to help us share these data points. Polygraph also uses its expertise on its other platform, The Pudding, to create a unique visual and interactive experience when representing specific datasets.

How to create your own dataset visualization

If you'd like to see how it all works, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the Google Common Knowledge Project website to create your first chart.
  2. Click the I want to change the location text box and type or select an area.
    Location options from the Google Common Knowledge Project website
  3. Under Refine the data, choose one of the five primary categories. You can pick between People, Economy, Health, Education, or Crime as your primary category.
    The five main data categories from the Google Common Knowledge Project website

  4. Select a more specific sub-category from the drop-down menu.
  5. Move the slider under Choose a time span to select the year range for your chart. If you chose the United States as your general location, you might not have the option to adjust the year range.
  6. Select any chart design you want under the Choose a chart type section. You have eight chart types to pick from, including Line, Area, Slope, Bars, Stacked Bar, US Map, Group Comparison, and Rank.
    The eight chart design options from the main Google Common Knowledge Project website

  7. In the Style section, choose the text colors and font type you want to use.
  8. Once you're set, click Create in the upper-right corner.
  9. Save your chart as an image or a .csv file, which many text editor programs support, including Microsoft Excel.
  10. Go to the Raw data section to view specific details about your dataset.
    An example chart made using the Google Common Knowledge Project showing how many households without a computer in the United States

The Google Common Knowledge Project makes it easy to find reliable civic data

What once was a challenge to find reliable data points about your local community is no longer an issue. The Google Common Knowledge Project makes your life easier by offering datasets directly from Data Commons. These official open source entities within Data Commons are trusted by many worldwide, removing the guesswork of deciding how trustworthy your sources are. This also means you can access the most up-to-date information, making the data as accurate as possible. When combined with the power and flexibility of Polygraph, you can instantly share and present these datasets online with high-quality visual chart designs.

Google Pinpoint is another helpful solution that journalists can use to make their in-depth research even better. From keeping track of large documents to transcribing audio and video files, these tools can elevate your research game.