Teach with real data

Using real research data

Use real research data to bring social science learning to life. Use UK Data Service teaching datasets created to be more accessible for teaching purposes and our extensive social science teaching resources to support your teaching and learning. Most of our data collection can also be used in teaching.

Find out about how to access and share data for teaching.

Learn about teaching datasets.

Find ideas for using data in teaching.

Resources for dissertations

Our dissertation resources page highlights useful resources for dissertation students including guides on how to manage research data (including templates for consent) and planning a dissertation project using survey data.

Undergraduate students using data from the UK Data Service can also enter our Dissertation Award.

Accessing and sharing data for teaching

Each dataset held in the UK Data Service collection will have a designated access level. Teachers are required to agree to the terms and conditions relating to how a specific dataset can be used.

Open data

Open data are data which are not personal and have relatively few restrictions to use. It can be shared without restriction. Our collection of open data includes teaching datasets and data from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Safeguarded data

Data that is licensed for use in the Safeguarded category are not personal. However, the data owner considers there to be a risk of disclosure resulting from linkage to other data.

Safeguarded data is available under an End User Licence. To use as part of a taught course, you will need to:

  • Register with the UK Data Service and create a teaching specific project.
  • Enter the number of students when creating your teaching project or after teaching.
  • Order the required data and add it to the usage.
  • Record students’ details.

Students who are registered with the UK Data Service can be added to your project by using the Members tab.

If your students are not registered, you should use the Access Agreement for Teaching (PDF) to provide details of students using the data.

You can use a paper version of the form in class. Alternatively, you can use a virtual learning environment (VLE) such as Blackboard or Moodle to administer the agreement. Our guide on How to use VLEs to set-up the Access Agreement for Teaching (PDF) includes more information.

Data in virtual learning environments

You can place data on shared areas such as websites or virtual learning environments for teaching purposes if access is restricted to those registered to using the data, either individually or through the Access Agreement for Teaching.

Data should be removed from shared areas when no longer required.

Students using data independently

When students are using data independently, such as when working on a project or dissertation, they need to register with the UK Data Service and access data individually.

Research students (PhD or MPhil) should register their use of the data individually.

Using macro databanks for teaching

There is no requirement to register a teaching usage if you are using the international macro databanks for teaching purposes. When necessary, students must register and agree online to any terms and conditions.

Using data in a new or interesting way?

If you are using data in an interesting way within the classroom we would like to hear from you. Other teachers may find your approach inspires them to think about new ways in which they could use data themselves. If you are willing to share your experiences, or be interviewed for a case study, please get in touch.

Teaching resources: qualitative data

Reuse of qualitative datasets has been steadily increasing over the past decade. Bishop and Kuula-Luumi’s (2017) analysis of secondary use of data at the UK Data Service showed that the majority of reuse of qualitative data was for learning and teaching purposes. While qualitative data can give detailed insights into social life, it can also be used to help illuminate larger lessons about research and everyday life.

The UK Data Service has put together a range of teaching resources which help to explore these topics. Some are based wholly on a single collection and help to break down key theoretical perspectives. Others incorporate excerpts from a range of collections to help compare and contrast different ways of doing research. All teaching resources come with background information about the topics covered, snippets of real data from our collections to examine, discussion questions, and further observations and notes to help aid discussions.

These teaching resources can be used in classroom or in self-directed study. All of the materials needed to complete the activities are contained within the resource; should you wish to examine any of the collections mentioned within the resource in more detail, you can always download the dataset through our Data Catalogue.


Bishop, L. and Kuula-Luumi, A. (2017) ‘Revisiting qualitative data reuse: a decade on’. Sage Open 7(1).

Using data in teaching

Looking for ways to bring more data into the classroom? Here are some ideas for how our data and resources can be used in teaching.

For an overview, view our brochure on Data-driven learning and teaching (PDF).

Teaching methods

Real research data provides a great resource for teaching research methods. We have resources that use our data to teach research methods for both quantitative and qualitative data.

Other ideas for using data in teaching

Use published studies and reports to engage students

Use student-friendly reports and briefings including those from the British Social Attitudes Survey and Health Survey for England websites.

Make use of the documentation

How can we measure unemployment, well-being or values? Use the survey documentation in the ‘documents’ tab of the Data Catalogue record to find out.

Students developing surveys can select and critique survey questions from survey questionnaires and the Variable and question bank.

Expand horizons across countries and time

Analyse the OECD and World Bank macro databanks using the online tool UKDS.Stat.

Key surveys repeat questions across years; try making a small time-series dataset by downloading subsets of data using Nesstar.

Good surveys for comparative analysis include the Eurobarometer Surveys and the International Social Survey Programme.

Give practical examples of survey design issues

Give students practical encounters with concepts such as standard error and confidence intervals by looking at small sub-populations.

Use descriptions of survey design and weights in the documentation of key UK surveys. Students can then explore how weights adjust data.

Make use of qualitative data

We have teaching resources that use examples from real research projects to introduce qualitative data collection methods (PDF).

The Last Refuge (PDF) incorporates material from Peter Townsend’s seminal study of long-stay institutional care.

Pioneers of Social Research (PDF) includes interviews with pioneering sociologists.

Teach students about how to manage research data

Our research data management training materials include content on consent, confidentiality and the data lifecycle.


We are looking at how we can introduce students to the data and the data skills needed to help understand the world we live in.

Our extensive collection of data provides unique insight into society and can support learning in relation to social science subjects as well as mathematical and data skills.

Below we provide links to freely available resources based on our data, some made by us and some made by other organisations. This is work in progress and we’ll be adding more soon.

Resources for schools

Schools are free to use our Britain by numbers teaching resources. The interactive activities can support teaching and learning in both social sciences and maths.

Visit Edinburgh Q-Step Centre’s website for Scotland by Numbers interactive teaching resources looking at social and demographic trends in Scotland.

Teaching datasets

Our teaching datasets

We have datasets specifically designed for teaching. Teaching datasets are based on real data but in a more accessible form for teaching.

Our collection of teaching datasets include:

  • simplified versions of the major surveys (including small accessible files with an open license)
  • qualitative teaching files
  • data for teaching particular themes.

You can explore teaching datasets that are available in our Data Catalogue.

For survey datasets, we have an Excel file that lists our teaching datasets. The file includes summary information about sample size, number of variables, potential uses and teaching datasets by substantive topics.

Simply register and download

To access our teaching datasets, you simply need to register with the UK Data Service. Find out how to register your students and share data with them.

Open access

We have a small number of Open access datasets available for teaching that can be used without registration or authentication, including open data from key UK Surveys (PDF). See our open access data web pages for more information.


A number of teaching datasets are available in Nesstar allowing students to explore survey data without needing a statistics package.

Make your own

You can also make your own teaching datasets using data from the UK Data Service.

Teaching resources: data management

Our resources relating to data management include tools and templates and training exercises.