Most of the datasets in the RCMD 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 RCMD. 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.
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:
View all studies. Faceted searching makes it easy to quickly narrow your results.
View all studies for which online analysis is available. RCMD 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.
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 recent updates & additions. This is a list of all ICPSR studies, sorted such that new releases appear at the top of the results page.
In your searching you may encounter unfamiliar acronyms and specialized terms used in the social sciences. These resources can provide clear definitions:
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.
Some RCMD 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.
example of a study home page
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.
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:
Before downloading the data, you may want to do two things to assure that the study meets your needs.
Click on the "View study description" link and carefully review the description of the study. This may include important information about file formats and other unique characteristics of the data.
Click on the "Browse documentation files" link and view the documentation files, including the codebook.
When you are ready to download, click on the "Download > select formats/datasets" link (or "Download > all files"). You will see a table displaying the datasets as rows (for studies that have more than one dataset) and format options as columns. Also note the two tabs atop the table, that allow you to choose between system files and ASCII files.
example of a data download page
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.