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Data Sources: How to Cite Data & Statistics

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Why Cite?

All scholarly or academic work requires that you cite your sources, whether you are writing a long paper or a quick report. Why is citing your research so important?

Researching and writing a paper ideally involves a process of exploring and learning. By citing your sources, you are showing your reader how you came to your conclusions and acknowledging the other people's work that brought you to your conclusions. Citing sources:

  • Documents your research and scholarship
  • Acknowledges the work of others whose scholarship contributed to your work
  • Helps your reader understand the context of your argument
  • Provides information for your reader to use to locate additional information on your topic
  • Establishes the credibility of your scholarship
  • Provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate your own integrity and understanding of academic ethics

Partially adapted from "When and Why to Cite Sources." SUNY Albany. 2008. Retrieved 14 Jan 2009.

How Should I Cite Data & Statistics?

Citation standards for data sets are still evolving, but you have a few options:

  1. Use the format of a style manual, such as APA.
  2. Use the data archive or source's preferred citation.

Remember that the purpose is to help your reader re-trace your steps -- more information is better than less!

More resources for citing data

Citing Data Sets Using APA Style

APA (American Psychological Association)

Point readers to raw data by providing a Web address (use "Retrieved from") or a general place that houses data sets on the site (use "Available from").

General format:

Author/Rightsholder. (Year). Title of data set (Version number) [Description of form]. Retrieved from http://


Author/Rightsholder. (Year). Title of data set (Version number) [Description of form]. Location: Name of producer.


United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2008). Indiana income limits [Data file]. Retrieved from

United Nations Statistics Division. (2008). Gender Info 2007. [Data file]. Retrieved from

Economist Intelligence Unit. (2012). EIU CountryData. [Data file]. London: Economist Intelligence Unit.

Partially adapted from The Owl at Purdue. (2012). "APA Style: Reference List: Electronic Sources (Web Publications)." Retrieved from

Use the Preferred Citation from Your Data Source

Some data providers, such as archives or some government agencies, prefer that you cite their data a certain way. Look around on their webpage for clues.

For example, ICPSR provides a citation for each dataset on the Study Description page:

In this case, you can just copy and paste the citation right into your bibliography!