Brief Guide To Acquiring Data

The following is a brief summary of the steps you can take to look for and acquire data, and what you need to do to be able to use it.

1. Choose a research topic.

If you haven't already, read the Guide to Planning Data Research to find out things you should think about in choosing a topic. See also tools for Choosing a Topic.

 

2. Browse various appropriate online data archives or repositories. 

ICPSR (strongly recommended) - the premier archives for social and political science research.

Other data archives (some other good sites)

Social science resources
Physical and Life science resources

 

3. Discuss your choices of data with your professor. 

She/He might know something about the data set you are considering that would make it less desirable, or might have other suggestions. You might also track down some articles using the data you are thinking about to see what has been done with it in the past; ICPSR's Publication-Related Archives (PRA) is useful this way. 

 

4. Get the data and its documentation. 

Download it from ICPSR or other archive.

 

5. Pick your variables and/or any sub-sample of the study.

Using the codebook, determine which variables in the study you want to work with. It's generally better to think more rather than less. You also might want to focus on a particular sub-sample, e.g., children. 

 

6. Write a SAS or SPSS program (or amend any program provided).

You will need to write a program to read the raw data and create the SAS data set or SPSS system file which includes the variables you want. 

NOTE : UNLESS A SAS DATA SET OR SPSS SYSTEM FILE IS PROVIDED FOR YOU, WHAT YOU HAVE IS JUST RAW DATA. YOU MUST CREATE A SAS DATA SET OR SPSS SYSTEM FILE TO RUN ANY PROCEDURES ON THE DATA.

See the Services Overview for information on statistical software package training available on campus.