Citing your data source is just as important as citing your other research sources. For other scholars to be able to examine and extend your work, they must be able to find the original data.
Few citation style guides offer guidance on how to cite data. Use the key components listed below and work them into the style you're using. Please note, this set of recommendations should not be taken as the final word on styles. If you have a question, check with your faculty advisor or the publication where you hope to publish.
If you have a DOI, try this automatic citation formatter. Paste in the DOI and it will format according to the style you select.
Key Elements of a Data Citation
Author or Creator—The name(s) of each individual or organizational entity responsible for the creation of the dataset.
Title or Study Name—The title of the dataset, including the edition or version number, if applicable.
Publisher and/or Distributor—The organizational entity that makes the dataset available by archiving, producing, publishing, and/or distributing the dataset.
Publication Date—The date when the data set was published or released.
Location or Identifier—Web address or unique, persistent, global identifier used to locate the dataset, e.g. a DOI or a handle. Append the date retrieved if the title and locator are not specific to the exact instance of the data you used.
Version or Edition—The exact version or edition of the data set.
Access Date—Date of access for analysis. Needed to reproduce analysis of continuously updated dynamic datasets.
Format / Material Designator—Database, CD-ROM.
Feature Name—A description of the subset of the dataset used. May be a formal title or a list of variables.
Verifier—Used to confirm that two datasets are identical. Most commonly a UNF or MD5 checksum.
Series—Used if the dataset is part of series of releases (e.g. monthly, yearly).
Contributor—e.g. editor, compiler
Sample dataset citations for the three major citation styles:
APA (6th edition)
Smith, T.W., Marsden, P.V., & Hout, M. (2011). General social survey, 1972-2010 cumulative file (ICPSR31521-v1) [data file and codebook]. Chicago, IL: National Opinion Research Center [producer]. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor]. doi: 10.3886/ICPSR31521.v1
MLA (7th edition)
Smith, Tom W., Peter V. Marsden, and Michael Hout. General Social Survey, 1972-2010 Cumulative File. ICPSR31521-v1. Chicago, IL: National Opinion Research Center [producer]. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2011. Web. 23 Jan 2012. doi:10.3886/ICPSR31521.v1
Chicago (16th edition) (author-date)
Smith, Tom W., Peter V. Marsden, and Michael Hunt. 2011. General Social Survey, 1972-2010 Cumulative File. ICPSR31521-v1. Chicago, IL: National Opinion Research Center. Distributed by Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research. doi:10.3886/ICPSR31521.v1 (For more details, access Chicago Manual of Style Online)
Examples of how to cite statistical tables published in a publication or on a website (Michigan State University Libraries).
Many data sources will include recommendations on how to cite their data. When retrieving data or statistical tables, look for instructions on "How to Cite." Keep in mind not all sources provide citation instructions.
Content in this guide was reused from University of North Carolina's "How to Cite Data" subject guide.
APA, MLA and Chicago examples are from: A Quick Guide to Data Citation. International Association for Social Science Information Services & Technology. Special Interest Group on Data Citation, 2012.