Social Science Data and Software (SSDS): Support for Your Research
by Judy Marsh
In 1999 a unique service, Social Science Data and Software (SSDS), was launched. SSDS is a group within the Stanford University Libraries who through consulting, workshops and help documentation, provide services and support to Stanford faculty, students and staff in finding and getting social science data, and in selecting and using quantitative and qualitative software for research and instruction. Over the years, we have helped clients from the social sciences and from other departments, programs, schools and research centers, including the Bing Honors College students and honors students in general. The SSDS consulting facility, The Velma Denning Room, is home to specialized computing and print resources and is located in the Social Sciences Resource Center (SSRC) on the first floor of the Green Library Bing Wing. See also Try the Social Sciences Resource Center for Research Support in this issue.
The SSDS group supports the following resources and services.
Consulting takes place in The Velma Denning Room during scheduled hours, by appointment or via email. Users who cannot drop by can send their questions or arrange an appointment via our Web site. The current quarter walk-in schedule is posted on our Web site.
- Data specialists provide help in finding and getting social science data. Requests for data typically fall into two broad categories: data for course work and data for research, and may include recommendations for data appropriate for curricular objectives, and suggestions for data sources for secondary research. Data consultations often go beyond suggesting sources by helping users correctly access, download and use data.
- Software consultants provide services and support in the use of the most popular quantitative (statistical) software, SPSS, SAS, and Stata, and qualitative software, NVivo, ATLAS.ti and SPSS Text Analysis for Surveys. In addition, consultants provide assistance and information for researchers who are at various stages in their project. Examples include survey design and tips for data entry, solutions to common software problems, data management and data reshaping and conversion. The SSDS Web site features a software FAQ that includes general information about software support and where to access software on campus. A Software Knowledge Base identifies and describes data analysis functions within a software program. Visitors to The Velma Denning Room can evaluate a variety of quantitative and qualitative software packages, including specialized software packages for advanced methods and spatial statistics.
Our group workshops attract researchers from a wide variety of departments, schools and research centers. Standard workshops are offered from fall through spring and cover SSDS resources and services in general, ways to locate and download data sets, and comparisons of quantitative and qualitative software for individual research or instructional needs. Check out our current quarter workshop schedule and details.
In addition to standard workshops, we provide by-request sessions from faculty for honors students, research seminars and data-intensive classes that include survey design and best practices for entering data, how to identify and download secondary data sets, and appropriate software choices for analyzing structured or unstructured (interview) data.
Key computing and Print Resources
The DEWI (Data Extraction Web Interface) Data System is a Web-based tool for finding and extracting variables from selected datasets within Stanford's social science numeric data collection. Locate variables by browsing or by searching on keywords. In addition, users can view useful information such as variable sample frequencies, descriptions and documentation. After variables are selected, the resulting file can be downloaded in the most popular statistical software formats to your computer. Find DEWI at: http://dewi.stanford.edu.
ICPSR (Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research) is an archive of over 7,000 data collections and 500,000 files. Stanford users can download ICPSR datasets directly via the ICPSR Web site from computers in the Stanford University network or connect off-campus via Stanford's Proxy server.
Roper Center for Public Opinion Research specializes in data from surveys of public opinion. Stanford users can download datasets in the Roper collection that are available in ASCII or SPSS portable formats. Request other Roper Center data via the SSDS Web site.
Social science data on CD-ROM are available from computers in The Velma Denning Room. Datasets cover a broad range of social science topics and time periods from U.S. Federal agencies, international organizations, foreign governments and independent producers.
Workstations in The Velma Denning Room include active desktop links that allow Stanford users quick access to a variety of SSDS data and software resources and to data on CD-ROM. Users who are working with data and software consultants can save their extracted files to an SSDS server and then access them from any of the Windows workstations. In addition, users can save files via AFS or via transportable media.
SSDS help guides are designed to assist users who are getting started with software packages. Printed guides are available in The Velma Denning Room or users can view and download guides via the SSDS Web site.
A reference library of textbooks on quantitative and qualitative research methods, software manuals, database codebooks, and a selection of magazines and journals is available in The Velma Denning Room.