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Citation Help

Introduction

Data requires citations for the same reasons journal articles and other types of publications require citations: to acknowledge the original author/producer and to help other researchers find the resource.

A dataset citation includes the same components as any other citation:

  • author,
  • title,
  • year of publication,
  • publisher (for data this is often the archive where it is housed),
  • edition or version, and
  • access information (a DOI, URL, or other persistent identifier).

Unfortunately, standards for the citation of data are not uniformly agreed upon and have yet to be codified by the National Information Standards Organization (an organization that sets technical standards for other bibliographic materials).  However, many data providers and distributors and some style manuals do provide guidelines.  Some of these instructions are listed on this guide.

General Rules

Some style manuals do provide data citation instructions, and selected examples are listed below. Usually a style manual will lay out basic rules for the order of citation elements, regardless of the type of work. This is what you will need to pay close attention to in order to format your citation correctly.

If the style manual you are using does not address data citations, you can use the citation elements listed below to guide you.

Author

Who is the creator of the data set?  This can be an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization.

Title

What name is the data set called, or what is the name of the study? 

Edition or Version

Is there a version or edition number associated with the data set?

Date

What year was the data set published?  When was the data set posted online?

Editor

Is there a person or team responsible for compiling or editing the data set?

Publisher and Publisher Location

What entity is responsible for producing and/or distributing the data set? Also, is there a physical location associated with the publisher? 

In some cases, the publisher of a data set is different than how we think of the publisher of a book.  A data set can have both a producer and a distributor.

The producer is the organization that sponsored the author’s research and/or the organization that made the creation of the data set possible, such as codifying and digitizing the data.

The distributor is the organization that makes the data set available for downloading and use. 

You may need to distinguish the producer and the distributor in a citation by adding explanatory brackets, e.g., [producer] and [distributor].

Some citation styles (e.g., APA) do not require listing the publisher if an electronic retrieval location is available.  However, you may consider including the most complete citation information possible and retaining publisher information even in the case of electronic resources.

Material Designator

What type of file is the data set?  Is it on CD-ROM or online? 

This may or may not be a required field depending on the style manual.  Often this information is added in explanatory brackets, e.g. [computer file].

Electronic Retrieval Location

What web address is the data set available at?  Is there a persistent identifier available?  If a DOI or other persistent identifier is associated with the data set it should be used in place of the URL.

Data Citation Examples

Minimum requirements based on instructions and example for dataset reference

Milberger, S. (2002). Evaluation of violence against women with physical disabilities in Michigan, 2000-2001 (ICPSR version) [data file and codebook]. doi:10.3886/ICPSR03414.

With optional elements

Milberger, S. (2002). Evaluation of violence against women with physical disabilities in Michigan, 2000-2001 (ICPSR version) [data file and codebook]. Detroit: Wayne State University [producer]. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor]. doi:10.3886/ICPSR03414.

Minimum requirements based on instructions and examples for books and web publications

Milberger, Sharon. Evaluation of Violence Against Women With Physical Disabilities in Michigan, 2000-2001. ICPSR version. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, 2002. Web. 19 May 2011.

With optional elements

Milberger, Sharon. Evaluation of Violence Against Women With Physical Disabilities in Michigan, 2000-2001. ICPSR version. Detroit: Wayne State U [producer]. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2002. Web. 19 May 2011. doi:10.3886/ICPSR03414.

Bibliography style (based on documentation for books)

Milberger, Sharon. Evaluation of Violence Against Women With Physical Disabilities in Michigan, 2000-2001. ICPSR version. Detroit: Wayne State University, 2002. Distributed by Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, 2002. doi:10.3886/ICPSR03414.

Author-date style

Milberger, Sharon. 2002. Evaluation of Violence Against Women With Physical Disabilities in Michigan, 2000-2001. ICPSR version. Detroit: Wayne State University. Distributed by Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. doi:10.3886/ICPSR03414.