ICPSR Datasets: How and Why to Use Them

Opening up the data archive means the datasets can be shared and reused to investigate new research questions or to re-examine and attempt to validate existing research.

SR (Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research) provides an archive of datasets from over 13,000 research studies in the social sciences with new datasets added weekly. The archive is managed at the University of Michigan and supported by about 780 member institutions, including Muhlenberg College. Who provides the datasets? Anyone can submit data for deposit. ICPSR obtains data from private institutions, research agencies, and government entities and then curates and stores the datasets to ensure data quality and preservation. Why archive data that has already been used? Datasets are a vital part of the evidence that supported the research study results reported to the public.  In the ICPSR archive, most datasets are available for public use. Because Muhlenberg College is a member, all data is available to Muhlenberg faculty, students, and staff who create an account using their Muhlenberg email address.

ICPSR also tracks what research has been done using a dataset from the archive. To find out, search the ICPSR Bibliography of Data-related Literature which includes citations to both published and unpublished analytical works using an ICPSR dataset and going back to 1962. Beyond providing the data itself, ICPSR supports learning how to conduct research with data. Teaching and learning resources are available through the website.

  • For students
    • Online resources for students are available here.
    • The annual summer learning institute held at the University of Michigan provides a deep dive into quantitative analysis and social research.
  • For teachers
    • Using Data in the Classroom – Learning guides and exercise modules for faculty teaching undergraduates.
    •  Videos about teaching with data are available here.

ICPSR works to develop more robust data sources. They have partnered with federal statistical agencies to create topical collections and provide tools for easier data discovery and use. You can access data instruments, dictionaries, and data from U.S. Census Data through a specially built interface on ICPSR. For more information about all the collections available look here.

Are you ready to ask a question and find a dataset?

Trexler Library provides access to additional sources for data. To learn more, check the subject guide Find Statistics and Data or contact a librarian.

Research Paper Competition

Each summer ICPSR hosts a student Research Paper Competition based on quantitative analysis of ICPSR data. Awards include cash prizes and publication of winning papers. Click here for more information: https://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/content/ICPSR/prize/index.html

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