New User Tutorial
What You Will Get From the ICPSR Archive
Most of the datasets in the ICPSR archive are raw data from surveys, censuses, and administrative records. They were originally gathered in research projects and for administrative purposes. ICPSR preserves them because they have value for "secondary analysis" - that is, reexamining old data to address new questions or to employ new analytic methods.
You will not get reports, charts, publications, or other studies from ICPSR. Rather, you will get raw numerical data which can be analyzed. Some datasets have been used in published studies. You can see a bibliography of these studies by clicking on the "view related literature" link on each study's home page.
Finding the Data You Need
Use the Search Box if you know exactly what you want. For example, enter a survey title or the name of a principal investigator in the search box. We also offer several browse options, including:
- Browse by topic. You can browse through studies arranged by subject. Most categories have been further subdivided into narrower subject areas.
- Browse by geography
- Browse by investigator. Consult an alphabetical list of investigators for all ICPSR data.
- Browse by series. Scan this list of more than 250 ongoing series and data collection projects.
- Browse international data
- View all studies. Faceted searching makes it easy to
quickly narrow your results.
- View all studies for which online analysis is available. ICPSR offers many studies in Survey Documentation and Analysis (SDA), a Web tool for analyzing data. Analyzing data online means you don't have to download data for use with statistical software.
- View all studies that have Quick Tables
- View all studies that have learning guides
- Browse recent updates & additions. This is a list of all ICPSR studies, sorted such that new releases appear at the top of the results page.
- Fielded search
ICPSR makes use of faceted searching. You may find it helpful to read over a brief post on Faceted Searching Using SOLR.
Additional Finding Aids
Find Publications using our Bibliography of Data-related Literature. This database contains over 60,000 published and unpublished works that have used data in the ICPSR collection. It is an excellent way to explore what has already been done in an area of study.
Seach and Compare Variables within our Social Science Variables Database (SSVD). The SSVD currently represents about 50% of ICPSR's overall holdings, or roughly 1.9 million variables.
In your searching you may encounter unfamiliar acronyms and specialized terms used in the social sciences. These resources can provide clear definitions:
- Glossary of Social Science Terms
- Index of Frequently Used Acronyms (link to ICPSR)
- Social Sciences Research and Instructional Glossary
Obtaining Access to the Data
All of the documentation files associated with ICPSR datasets are available to the general public. This documentation includes the study metadata--that is, the data describing the study. However, not all of the datasets themselves are freely available.
Data for ICPSR members
Some ICPSR data have been acquired, processed, and archived through the support of ICPSR member institutions. These data are available only to persons at ICPSR member institutions. If you are at a member institution, you will be able to download these datasets; if you are not, you may only download documentation files for that study. An Access Note will appear on the study home page informing you if the data are available only to ICPSR members.
Freely Available Data
Studies funded by federal agencies are usually available to the general public (unless restricted because of disclosure risk). These externally-funded thematic collections focus on aging, child care, criminal justice, demographic information, education, health and mental health, substance abuse, and terrorism.
Some datasets are protected because there is a risk that the identity of research participants could be disclosed. These datasets are released with special protections. Datasets in which the level of disclosure risk is especially high can be examined only in a special data enclave in the ICPSR office in Ann Arbor. See enclave data.
If you find a dataset with restricted access, you will see an Access Note about this on the study home page:
example of a study with a restricted access note
When you find a study that you wish to download, you will see a variety of download links on the study home page that enable you to download individual documentation files, or application-specific bundles (at either the study or dataset level). The "Quick Download" button provides multiple options on mouse over.
Before downloading the data, you may want to do two things to assure that the study meets your needs.
Review the description of the study. This may include important information about file formats and other unique characteristics of the data.
View the documentation files, including the codebook.
Using the downloaded data requires some basic knowledge of statistical analysis techniques and some familiarity with statistical analysis software packages. We provide help for specific analysis packages and data analysis issues.