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Finding & Using Data from ICPSR: Locate Datasets

Guidance for locating and using data from the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

Search Results

Search results in ICPSR are presented in a table with multiple tabs:

studies variables series

data-related publications

ICPSR Website

Results can be refined by using the filters on the left side of the screen. Available filters will vary across tabs. 

Once you identify a dataset to answer your research questions, you can download the dataset to analyze with your own software, or you can use the online data analysis system for a selection of the ICPSR datasets. 

  • The majority of ICPSR's data files are ASCII fixed-format files. 
  • SAS, SPSS, Stata and R setup files are provided with many ICPSR datasets.

Keyword Search

The Search bar appears on the ICPSR homepage and the Find Data page. 

Search using the name of a survey, principal investigator or by subject and/or keyword. Search terms can be anywhere in the study: title, description, variables, etc.

Search Tips

  • Explore the ICPSR Subject Thesaurus to locate standardized descriptive subject terms; these terms also appear as "Subject" filters on the left side of the results page

  • Using at least two query terms is recommended:
    rural economy
    ghana adolescents

  • Use as many as required to achieve your desired results:
    elementary education federal funding

  • The search will retrieve derivatives of your query terms: "nation"will find results for "national"

  • Use quotes to search for an exact expression:
    "social mobility"

  • You can combine exact expressions with loose terms:
    "united states" inmates

  • Exclude results by using a MINUS sign:
    elections -sweden -germany will exclude Swedish and German election studies

Variable Search

Search the Social Science Variables Database (SSVD) enables ICPSR users to examine and compare variables and questions across studies or series. 

Used For:

  • Data discovery
  • Variable comparison/ harmonization projects
  • Research methods & substantive courses instruction
  • Questionnaire development

Access SSVD:

  • the ICPSR homepage under Find Data -->Search Compare Variables
  • selecting the Variables tab on the results page 

The SSVD currently includes over 5 million variables, representing about 76% of ICPSR's holding.

Compare Variables Instructions:

  • select variables of interest individually or use the Select...dropdown menu above the variable name column
  • after selecting variables, use the Actions...dropdown menu to select Compare

What's in There? Searching by Variable at ICPSR (47:04)

Browse Datasets

Browse data options are on the Find Data page.  Options include:

  • Topics: categories such as education, census data, legal systems, health care
  • Series: i.e. ongoing polls, American Community Survey, General Social Survey 
  • Recency: last added or updated to the archive  
  • Keyword: select from an A-Z list of keywords