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Citing Data

This guide provides guidance on how to construct a citation for datasets or statistics.

Citing Datasets

Citing your data source is just as important as citing your other research sources. For other researchers to be able to use your work, they must be able to find the original data.

Use the key components listed below and work them into the style (e.g., APA) you're using. 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. You can read more about data citation on the Citing Data guide from ICPSR.

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 CreatorThe name(s) of each individual or organizational entity responsible for the creation of the dataset.

Title or Study NameThe title of the dataset, including the edition or version number, if applicable.

Publisher and/or DistributorThe organizational entity that makes the dataset available by archiving, producing, publishing, and/or distributing the dataset.  

Publication DateThe date when the data set was published or released.

Location or IdentifierWeb 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.

Additional Elements

Version or Edition—The exact version or edition of the data set.

Access DateDate of access for analysis. Needed to reproduce analysis of continuously updated dynamic datasets.

Format / Material Designator—Database, CD-ROM.

Feature NameA description of the subset of the dataset used.  May be a formal title or a list of variables.

SeriesUsed if the dataset is part of series of releases (e.g. monthly, yearly).

Contributore.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).

Helpful Hint:  
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 and ICPSR's guide on data citation.

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.