Citing data

Data are a vital part of the scientific research process and proper citation should be a significant feature of research publications.

Data citation:

  • acknowledges the author's sources
  • makes identifying data easier
  • promotes the reproduction of research results
  • makes it easier to find data
  • allows the impact of data to be tracked
  • provides a structure which recognises and can reward data creators

Any publication, whether printed, electronic or broadcast, based wholly or in part on the data collections provided by the UK Data Service must be accompanied by the correct citation and acknowledgement information. In addition, ESRC award holders are expected to cite their data to encourage and facilitate data sharing under the terms of the ESRC Research Data Policy.

Details of the citation and acknowledgement that should be used are set out in the 'Study information and citation' file, available for every dataset from the online documentation table via the relevant catalogue record within Discover.

A citation should include enough information so that the exact version of the data being cited can be located, but does not include information on the sponsor or copyright. A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is included in the citation. This ensures that even if the location of the data changes, the DOI will always link to the data that were used. Each dataset used must have a separate citation.

Examples of the recommended format for citations:

  • University of Essex. Institute for Social and Economic Research,NatCen Social Research. (2014). Understanding Society: Waves 1-4, 2009-2013. [data collection]. 6th Edition. UK Data Service. SN: 6614,

and for international macrodata

Information on how to cite census data is available from Census Support: Citing census data.

Any acknowledgement, which is a general statement giving credit to sponsors or distributors, should not be a replacement for a proper citation.

View our video tutorial on how to cite data obtained from the UK Data Service, including some of the methods we’ve used to try and make data citation and referencing as easy as possible for researchers.

For more information about the importance of data citation and the role of DOIs, see the ESRC data citation webpage and brochure Data Citation: what you need to know.

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