Manfred Kuechler, Hunter College (CUNY)
Version: 9 January 2002

Using Available Data in Social Research:
Retrieval via the Web

Types of Data

Textual data

Such documents are important primary sources for a wide range of research topics, especially topics in the area of  social and political change, public policy, institutional and organizational analysis, etc. Such textual data can be analyzed in more formal ways ("Content Analysis"; often used for the analysis of documents produced by the media) or in more qualitative ways, e.g., in the way historians use their sources. Such data may be the main data source for some research projects or they may be used as supplemental information. In any case, it is important to verify that the documents retrieved are unaltered and that the researcher fully understands the context in which they were produced.

As web sites are often subject to frequent change, the following project aims at making it possible to search the Web as it was in the past: The Wayback Machine

Sources for Statistical Data

These include census data and other official statistics. They may be available as full data sets (in various formats) or as tables; they may be embedded in a narrative or as just a set of numbers. The ultimate site for keeping track of Web sources supplying quantitative (numerical) data is maintained at the University of California at San Diego; as of December 2001 they list almost 900 sites world wide.

Sample sites:

Sources for Public Opinion Data

Sample sites for data presented in tables and charts:
  • Public Agenda (public opinion data and factual information focused on a number of "issues")
  • Americans and the World (US public opinion on international issues)
  • "The Pulse" -- A Consumer's Guide to Public Opinion Data on the Web
  • The Pew Research Center (public attitudes toward the press, politics and public policy issues)
  • The Gallup Poll
  • Harris Poll
  • Sample sites for complete data sets (for the purpose of secondary analysis) and question banks:
  • ICPSR (direct download of complete data sets from Hunter College IP addresses like computers on campus)
  • CESSDA Integrated Data Catalog (Council of European Social Science Data Archives)
  • Polling the Nation (Data base of questions used; free access via Hunter IP address only, one user at a time)
  • IRSS at UNC: Public Opinion Poll Question Database
  • Data Ferret (Federal Electronic Research Review and Extraction Tool) from the US Census Bureau and the BLS
  • Interactive data analysis (create tables and charts according to your own specifications) -- for both statistical and public opinion data:

  • General Social Survey  (GSS) 1972-2000 (from SDA at U of Berkeley)
  • British Social Attitude Survey (BSAS) and other European data sets (via NESSTAR)
  • Thematic Maps from US Census
  • Infoshare (statistical data from a variety of sources available on many different levels -- like zip codes, neighborhoods, or school districts -- for NYC) -- restricted access; free via Hunter IP address, i.e., from on campus or via proxy server