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Social Science Data Services: How to use data

This is the Social Science Data Services site which provides/pulls together guidance on finding statistics and data in the social sciences.

Learn quantitative methods

Need to expand your skills in statistical methods and quantitative analysis? Attend the ICPSR Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research!

Each year, ICPSR provides a comprehensive, integrated program of basic and advanced training in research design, statistics, data analysis, and social science methodology.

Analyze data

Transfer data between programs

Manage data

Understanding research data files

Use data responsibly

Most social science data sets are generated as a result of confidential research on individuals or organizations. Therefore, when conducting research using data sets, it is important to abide by the following principles:

  • Use data for statistical analysis and reporting of aggregated information only, and not for investigation of specific individuals or organizations.
  • Make no use of the identity of any person or establishment discovered inadvertently.
  • Produce no links among datasets that could identify individuals or organizations.
  • Do not redistribute the data to anyone other than current students, faculty,or staff of MIT.
  • Only use the data for non-profit, scholarly research and instructional purposes.
  • Cite the data appropriately in your publications.

Note: individual data files and archives may have their own terms of use; consult the information in the codebook or in the study record.

In addition, if you make use of any confidential data in your research, you should contact COUHES (Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects), the MIT office that reviews and approves research involving human subjects. See also our page on the use of restricted data.

Learn statistics

Search in Barton for resources on statistical analysis methods using the following subject headings:

  • Mathematical statistics
  • Social sciences -- Statistics
  • Social sciences -- Statistical methods
  • Social sciences -- research
  • Social sciences -- methodology
  • Statistics
  • or name the specific method about which you want information (e.g. Multivariate analysis)

Consult the following reference books:

Consult the Harvard-MIT Data Center Research Technology Consulting Service for:

  • Data analysis support and programming advice
  • Statistical methodology questions

Match geographic areas

When doing data analysis, many researchers need to know the relationship between different geographic areas (e.g. what counties lie within a particular metropolitan area). Following are some resources of use in matching geographic areas.

Note: when matching geographic areas, it is important to understand:

  • If your data will span any length of time, boundaries can change over time. Therefore, many of the resources listed will specify that you're matching boundaries based on the boundary definitions of a particular year.
  • Some users need to match Zip Codes to other geographic areas. However, difficulties in defining the land area covered by zip codes led the Census Bureau to designate ZCTAs (ZIP Code Tabulation Areas), generalized area representations of Zip Codes that enable more precise geographic calculation.

For help in matching geographic areas, see MIT GIS Services.

Social Science Data Services and Economics Librarian

Katherine McNeill