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Research Data Management

How to organize, preserve, share, and cite data

What You'll Need

You are familiar with citing books, films, articles, and even images – but what about a collection of data from the United States Census or field notes from an anthropological study? Fortunately, the same principles apply.

When citing data, here’s the information you’ll need (when available):

  • Creator(s) of the data
  • Title of the data set
  • Year the data set was published or submitted to a repository
  • Version or edition of the data set
  • URL or DOI used to access the data
  • Date you accessed the data

Citing in Popular Styles

Let’s cite some data! The examples below show you how to cite two data sets: characteristics of business owners collected in the Survey of Business Owners, and a data set of behavioral measurements of hunting bats collected by Gomes, et al.


The American Psychological Association (APA) style is commonly used to cite sources in the social sciences. Materials in this section are based on APA Style, 7th Edition from Purdue’s Online Writing Lab.

Basic structure (eliminate elements that are missing or non-applicable):
Creator/Rightsholder of Data (Year of publication). Title of dataset (Version No.) [Format of dataset]. Publisher. URL or DOI

Example 1:

United States Census Bureau (2016). Statistics for owners of respondent firms by owner’s age by gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status for the U.S.: 2012. [Data file].

Example 2:

Gomes, D. G. E., Page, R. A., Geipel, I., Taylor, R. C., Ryan, M. J., & Halfwerk, W. (2017). Bats perceptually weight prey cues across sensory systems when hunting in noise [Data file]. doi:10.5061/dryad.5gk8j


The Chicago Style, 17th Edition: Bibliography Style is a common citation style used in literature, history, and the arts. The style provides bibliographic information in the notes and usually a bibliography.

Rules for citing data sets are not provided in the latest edition of The Chicago Manual of Style. We recommend using the rules that the Manual provides for the most similar source type, which may be one of the following (click the link to access the Manual electronically):

14.187: Electronic supplements or enhancements to journal articles
14.257: Citing data from a scientific database
14.261-268: Multimedia

Use the structure that works best for the data set you're citing, eliminating elements that are non-applicable.


The Modern Language Association MLA Style (9th Edition) is the most widely used style when it comes to writing papers and citing sources within the liberal arts and humanities community.

Basic structure:
Creator/Rightsholder of Data. Title of Data Set. Version/Edition of data. Hosting Organization or Repository, Date of Publication. URL or DOI

Example 1:

United States Census Bureau. Statistics for Owners of Respondent Firms by Owner’s Age by Gender, Ethnicity, Race, and Veteran Status for the U.S.: 2012. American FactFinder version. United States Census Bureau, 2016.

Example 2:

Gomes, Dylan G. E., Rachel A. Page, Inga Geipel, Ryan C. Taylor, Mike C. Ryan, and Wouter Halfwerk. Bats Perceptually Weight Prey Cues across Sensory Systems When Hunting in Noise. Dryad Digital Repository, 2016. 24 Aug. 2017. doi:10.5061/dryad.5gk8j


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