Changing patterns of Social Science data usage (WP7)

What kinds of data do social scientists use and how have patterns of use changed over time? Are we seeing a move away from 'conventional' data types like surveys and experiments toward administrative and 'big data'? These are the questions addressed in Work Package 7 (WP7). WP7 examines data usage in research published in top Social Science journals and compares today’s data use to that of the past.

The research builds on and updates existing studies of this same question. Stanley Presser (1983) undertook a content analysis of the data used in articles published in the top ranking journals in the fields of Economics, Sociology, Political Sciences, Social Psychology and Public Opinion Research. All of the research papers in the selected journals were analysed for the years 1949-1950, 1964-1965 and 1979-1980. He found a general trend of increasing use of survey data over this period.

Saris and Gallhofer (2007) then continued and extended this analysis in 1994-1995. WP7 updates the content analysis to 2014-2015, enabling a comparison with the other data collection years, but also adding new variables relevant to today’s methods. This includes a more nuanced qualitative data section and the addition of online and big data. As with previous years, the quality of survey data reporting (for example the inclusion of response rates) will be examined both over time and between disciplines. The most commonly used and cited datasets and data providers will be established. The analysis involves systematic coding of over 1450 published journal articles.


Presser, S. (1984). The use of survey data in basic research in the social sciences. In C. F. Turner & E. Martin (Eds.), Surveying Subjective Phenomena (pp. 93-114). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.


Saris, W. E., & Gallhofer, I. N. (2007). Design, evaluation, and analysis of questionnaires for survey research. Chichester: John Wiley.



Rebekah Luff

Patrick Sturgis