Looking for social science data?

Article dated: 3 July 2012

The first week of July sees the kick-off of two highly influential events for social science researchers: the 45th annual Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis and the 5th ESRC Research Methods Festival.

The Essex Summer School is from 9 July to 17 August in Colchester and the Research Methods Festival from 2 to 5 July in Oxford.

As students and delegates prepare, it's a good time to remember that the UK Data Archive hosts a large and diverse collection of digital data that is a rich resource for those who teach and research in the social sciences.


The Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) provides access to the Archive's vast collection of more than 5,000 digital datasets, all easy to find through an online catalogue and supported with documentation and guides. In addition, there are helpful staff who can answer your more specific or difficult questions.

The data are free to registered users – and there is no cost to register. The process is simple. And in most cases, you can download the data directly to your desktop.

Getting started

Access to the Data Catalogue, including online documentation such as questionnaires, does not require registration. However, to download any data you must register with ESDS, agree to an End User Licence (EUL) and provide details of your intended use. Here are some links to help you get started:

Case studies of data in use

ESDS currently has more than 25,000 registered users. Many of them are starting to share their experiences re-using ESDS data in their teaching and research projects.

This is an easy way to get ideas, find others who are working in your discipline or research area, and jump-start your data search. To see examples, explore our library of case studies.

Other resources

The UK Data Archive also hosts other data services, including:

  • – a portal to UK census data from 1971 to 2001
  • Survey Question Bank – questionnaires from a range of major UK and cross-national social surveys
  • Secure Data Service – giving qualified researchers safe, controlled access to detailed microdata