Survey data

Survey data is key for social science research

Survey data, including data from long-running surveys, series and longitudinal studies, are a major part of social science research. This section provides guidance and training resources around using survey and longitudinal data including short videos, on-demand webinars, event materials and more detailed written guides.

Survey data software and tools

We have developed introductory guides to key software for analysing survey data (SPSS, Stata and R) with examples based on surveys available from the UK Data Service.


Many key survey datasets can be accessed via the online UK Data Service Nesstar catalogue.

A key benefit of Nesstar is that you can access variable descriptions and frequencies online without needing to register or download data.

We have video tutorials on:

Survey weights and complex samples

Many social survey datasets available through the UK Data Service derive from complex sampling methods and contain survey weights. Both these issues need to be considered when analysing many of the survey datasets available and we have a range of resources to help.

For a quick introduction to survey weights, we have a short video Weights in social surveys.

You can also learn more about weights and sample design through our data skills module Introduction to survey data.

Our statistical software guides include practical instructions for weighting data. Access via software and tools.

We also have more detailed written guides:

Guidance on working with survey data

Finding and accessing survey documentation

A short video tutorial Finding and using survey documentation is useful for surveys available via the UK Data Service.

Hierarchical datasets

Hierarchical datasets contain information about more than one unit; for example, we can have data at the individual and household level, which are often contained in separate data files.

For examples and practical advice on working with hierarchical datasets, see our guide What are hierarchical Files? (PDF).

You can also find practical instructions for linking files in our guides to Stata and SPSS, available under survey software and tools.

Analysing change over time

The guide to Analysing change over time (PDF) introduces data and methods for studying change over time quantitatively.

Small area estimation using key UK surveys

The guide for Small area estimation (PDF) discusses the types of geographical information available in key UK surveys and special methods for how UK Survey data can be used to provide local level estimates.

Survey Question Bank resources

The Survey Question Bank (now part of the UK Data Service) was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) until 2012. It produced a range of papers discussing the measurement of important topics and concepts, including educational attainment and religiosity. It also produced a range of factsheets discussing key aspects of survey research. The full collection of Survey Question Bank resources are available via the University of Essex repository.

Survey dataset guides

Guides and resources focusing on specific surveys:

Series records

You can also find useful information in the FAQs sections in the Data Catalogue. For example, the FAQs for the Labour Force Survey answers questions about weights, linking and identification variables.

More resources for survey data

CLOSER (Cohort & Longitudinal Studies Enhancement Resources)

CLOSER aims to maximise the use, value, and impact of longitudinal studies. Part of their work includes training and capacity building for researchers. They have a Learning Hub with information and resources on longitudinal data run training events.

A symposium on Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study: Introduction

Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study, began in 2009 and is the largest survey of its kind in the world. In this introduction to a symposium on Understanding Society, the main features of the study, how it is conducted, and evidence on data quality are reviewed. Past and potential uses in economic research are also discussed.

ESS EduNet

ESS EduNet is an online resource with practical activities on aspects of theory, data and method. Topics include regression, multilevel models, and latent variable modelling.

PEAS project

P|E|A|S (Practical Exemplars and Survey Analysis) provides useful information and examples for researchers analysing data from complex samples. It also includes sections on survey non-response.


NCRM provide methodological training and resources to help people interested in social science research methods.

The Office for National Statistics guide to social and economic research

This ONS guide (PDF) (designed for students taking the Welsh Baccalaureate) explains how to conduct research that will allow you to produce quality statistics, and what you should look for when assessing the quality and reliability of data sets.