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How to Cite Data: Numeric Data

The purpose of citations is to enable others to find the same sources you used. Data are like any other source and should be cited in your bibliography and your writing.

Library Data Services

Library Data Services caters to researchers interested in working with data, mapping, texts, visualization, and technology. Many of these services are available online. Davis Library Data Services, located on the second floor of Davis Library, offers:

  • A computing lab with specialized software for GIS and data visualization & analysis.
  • Walk-in assistance provided by knowledgeable student consultants during set hours
  • Consultations with specialists for more in-depth inquiries (by appointment).
  • Spaces for collaboration and presentation, complete with white boards and external displays.
  • Technology short courses and programs that promote digital scholarship.

Examples of Social Science Numeric Data Citation

Please Note: Different sources suggest different citation formats.  Citations are often more of an art than a science, requiring the user to create their own depending on the information their editor or instructor feels is important.

Citation suggestion from a Data Librarian (UNC's)

This is my personal preference for a way to cite Census data.  It's particularly important to include the Summary File number for censuses between 1960 and 2000 because some variables show up in multiple files (my personal preference also includes the table number since the point of a citation is to point readers to the specific source of the material).  Likewise, American Community Survey data should cite the product used, 1-, 3- or 5-year.  I've also included information here for citing data accessed through a non-Census database such as Social Explorer.

United States Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census.  2000 Decennial Census, Summary File 3, Table P1. Total Population.  Social Explorer [distributor], 2013-10-22. 


United States Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census.  2010-2014 (five-year) American Community Survey, Table S0101. Age and Sex.  American Factfinder, 2017-03-12.

Note that Social Explorer also publishes its own tables which should be cited as such rather than simply as Census tables.  Source information {excluding the table number} may be found below every table in Social Explorer. 

American Factfinder doesn't need to be marked as the distributor because it is the Census Bureau's own database.  Data obtained from, American FactFinder's successor, can use this same form, just replace American FactFinder with

Finally, I do not believe that one must list a geographic location for every database.  Style guides may disagree, however.

Citation suggestions from Social Explorer

Note:  Social Explorer now offers an embedded Citation Tool for several styles.  For maps, click on the "more info" icon in the Change Data menu at the upper left, then on the Citation tab. For reports, click on the "more info" icon in the right-hand menu and then on the Citation tab.

The following are popular citation format guidelines for sources without an author.



Data source. Title of table, dates. Prepared by Social Explorer. permalink URL (date accessed).


U.S. Census Bureau. Population Density, 1960. Prepared by Social Explorer. (accessed Jul 27 13:58:03 EST 2010).


Title of map, dates. Social Explorer, permalink URL (based on data from <identify data source>; date accessed).

Population Density, 1960. Social Explorer, (based on data from U.S. Census Bureau; accessed Jul 27 17:16:03 EST 2010).



Data source. “Title of table, dates.” Social Explorer. Medium. Date posted.


U.S. Census Bureau. “Population Density, 1960.” Social Explorer. Web. Jul 27 13:58:03 EST 2010.


“Title of map, dates.” Map. Social Explorer. Social Explorer, n.d. Medium. Date posted.

(based on data from )


“Population Density, 1960.” Map. Social Explorer. Social Explorer, n.d. Web. Jul 27 13:58:03 EST 2010. (based on data from U.S. Census Bureau)

Citation suggestions from ICPSR

If you're using ICPSR data, you're in luck--ICPSR not only provides citations, its web site offers a download option to export citations directly into bibliographic citation software like RefWorks.

For work based on ICPSR data, consider submitting your publication to the ICPSR Bibliography of Data-Related Literature. It will help other scholars find all the works based on those data. Email to submit citations for inclusion.


ABC News, and The Washington Post. ABC News/Washington Post Poll, May 2007 [Computer file]. ICPSR24588-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2009-04-17. doi:10.3886/ICPSR24588

United States Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census, and United States Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Current Population Survey: Annual Demographic File, 1987 [Computer file]. ICPSR08863-v2. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2009-02-03. doi:10.3886/ICPSR08863 

Johnston, Lloyd D., Jerald G. Bachman, Patrick M. O'Malley, and John E. Schulenberg. Monitoring the Future: A Continuing Study of American Youth (12th-Grade Survey), 2007 [Computer File]. ICPSR22480-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2008-10-29. doi:10.3886/ICPSR22480

Hall, David, Clement Leduka, Michael Bratton, E. Gyimah-Boadi, and Robert Mattes. Afrobarometer Round 3: The Quality of Democracy and Governance in Lesotho, 2005 [Computer file]. ICPSR22203-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2009-05-19. doi:10.3886/ICPSR22203

Numeric Data Citations in Other Disciplines

Here are some additional guides on citing data from other institutions and organizations, including links to guides with science examples, as noted.  

Format Suggestion for Data from Advanced Tools

Custom data tabulations from tools like or the Census APIs require custom citations.  Tool publishers often offer a sample citation, but researchers may want to consider going beyond that.  Obtaining specific data from tools like these depends on knowing specific parameters, so researchers may want to list the specific variables utilized as well as the specific data set since multiple options are available for a single subject.  Likewise these tools often enable researchers to apply different statistical weights to their queries, so that is also important information to cite.  Finally, the data sets available therein are revised from time to time, so the date the data were accessed is important. offers suggested citations for each of their databases.  For example, this citation is suggested for IPUMS USA:

Steven Ruggles, Sarah Flood, Sophia Foster, Ronald Goeken, Jose Pacas, Megan Schouweiler and Matthew Sobek. IPUMS USA: Version 11.0 [dataset]. Minneapolis, MN: IPUMS, year-accessed.

Note that the DOI will change as the data are versioned, so check the suggested citation when you use the data. That page is linked under the Research heading in the left sidebar for each database.

The Census Bureau suggests the following for data obtained via its API:

U.S. Census Bureau’s [YYYY – YYYY] American Community Survey [1/3/5]-year [estimates/statistics/data release].

As a data librarian, I would suggest making this more specific by adding at least the url for the Developer page used, e.g.:

U.S. Census Bureau’s [YYYY – YYYY] American Community Survey [1/3/5]-year [estimates/statistics/data release].

or, more specifically the actual JSON API call used:

U.S. Census Bureau’s [YYYY – YYYY] American Community Survey [1/3/5]-year [estimates/statistics/data release].,B25077_001M&for=state:*