Finding and accessing data for your project
Finding and accessing data for your student project
Identifying your data needs
Often the best way to find data for a research project is to start by developing an idea of the data you need to answer your research question(s).
Our Thinking before doing worksheet (PDF) can help you define your project and identify what data you need.
With a good idea of what you are looking for, you can start searching for suitable data.
Searching for data
The UK Data Service website has several places where you can start your search for data. The best place to start is the browse data page, from this page you can find:
- Data catalogue search tool – where you can search for specific studies or using search terms. For more information, watch our tutorial How to use the UK Data Service catalogue search tool.
- Theme pages – find key datasets on major themes such as health, housing, crime, education etc.
- Data by type – search for data by types such as longitudinal studies, UK surveys and census data.
- Variable and question bank – search for datasets that contain certain variables or questions. Further details on help variable and question bank page.
For more detailed information on finding data, including search tips, watch our video Finding the right data for your project.
Evaluating a dataset
When you find a relevant dataset, you will also need to evaluate its suitability for your project.
Review the catalogue page
Every dataset held by the UK Data Service has a catalogue page with summary information. You can use this information about the data to help decide whether it might be useful.
Our video on evaluating datasets guides you through the key information on the catalogue page and how you can use this to understand the suitability of a dataset. Watch our video Evaluating datasets.
Review the documentation
If a dataset seems promising, a next step is to review the documentation and evaluate how useful it is for your project. For example, if you are looking at data from a social survey, you can use the documentation to find out what questions the survey asked and consider which variables relate to your key concepts.
Use our Finding data for your project worksheet (PDF) for guidance.
Registration and access
To access most data from the UK Data Service, you need to register first. If you are a student at a UK institution of higher or further education, you simply use your university or college login to register with the UK Data Service.
If you are a non-UK student, see here for more information about registering as a non-UK academic user.
Access levels and conditions
Data from the UK Data Service are available at different access levels. Open, Safeguarded and Secure. Some safeguarded datasets also have special access conditions you need to agree to. All students should be able to access safeguarded data, but access to secure data is usually restricted to undergraduate students. For more information on this, watch the short video What data can you access for a student project? Understanding access conditions.