Metadata Records

General Information

ICPSR has produced study descriptions, or metadata records, describing its holdings since the organization began in 1962. In the 1980s the metadata records were converted to a standardized, fielded text format. In 1999, ICPSR received an NSF Infrastructure in the Social Sciences award (SES-9977984), which enabled us to enrich the content of the records and to convert them to XML. The first XML records were produced to be compliant with the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI) Version 1.0 tag set. The records now comply with DDI versions 2.5 and 3.1. In 2006, ICPSR, in partnership with the University of Michigan Library, produced MARC records for its collection. More recently, ICPSR has added machine-readable markup in JSON-LD format to dataset landing pages.

Please note that 'metadata records' does not refer to the larger PDF documentation files associated with each study, nor to the actual data files.

Some researchers and librarians find it useful to have access to our metadata records. On this page, we describe how to obtain those files and how we maintain the metadata files over time.

Conditions of Use

ICPSR shares its metadata records with the membership to promote wider awareness and use of ICPSR's social science data resources. In particular, we encourage members to integrate the records into local Online Public Access Catalogs (OPACs) intended primarily for the use of faculty, staff, and students at their institutions.

Creative Commons License ICPSR metadata records are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

ICPSR also encourages users to ensure good use of the metadata records:

  • When incorporating the records into a local catalog or website, the records must contain links back to the ICPSR site to ensure proper branding and to familiarize users with ICPSR. Please note that all ICPSR metadata records, whether XML or MARC, contain the URL for the resource.

  • The catalog or site must contain the date of download of the records from ICPSR so that users can determine how recent the information is. Every effort should be taken to keep the records up to date.

  • When downloading the records for research purposes, the conditions specified in the ICPSR Bylaws and the ICPSR Terms of Use apply to the research. These conditions include appropriate attribution and citation.