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Data Introduction: Cite

Getting started to manage, find, share, understand ethics, create, and cite data.

Why cite data?

  • other researchers can find the data you used and replicate the research
  • you help credit researchers through citation counts in WoS or Scholar
  • Help data producers, funding agencies etc to track how and where their data are used and measure impact

General Principles

There is no consensus yet in the academic community on how to cite data. There are several reasons for this:

  • citing data is relatively new and manuals have not been updated
  • electronic files of datasets often change location, file format, metadata information (title, date etc) as is the case with all digital assets
  • there are issues with digital preservation, access to data formats after some time etc.

For these reasons, many citation tools have also not included data designation as a type of resource for citation formatting.

As a general rule, when citing data, make sure you include all the information you would include for a regular citation. You should be familiar with the citation style your professor asked you to use or the one you have chosen. Elements that should be present many times vary depending on the style, but note down at least the following, if present:

  • Author: creator of the data(set). It can be an individual researcher, a research team or an organization, like a government agency.
  • Title: if the data come from a research paper, the title will probably match the title of the paper. Otherwise, a dataset title might be available, for ex. for population data from a specific country
  • Edition or Version: sometimes datasets might change overtime, so make sure you have the correct information noted down.
  • Date: at least the year of publishing the dataset (online) should be indicated
  • Editor: datasets might have editors, compilers or curators.
  • Publisher and Publisher Location: a publisher is the entity that makes available the dataset for the public, and it can be related sometimes to a location.
  • Material Designator: the type of the file format and if it is available online or in another medium, ex. hard disk etc
  • Electronic Retrieval Location: Usually the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) or a URL if this is not available
  • Date accessed online: the exact date you last looked up the data

So, how do I cite the data?

Usually you will find the citation information in the webpage of the data repository or publisher itself. Copy the citation directly in the citation style you are using, if provided, or export it in your citation tool to format it later. Some data providers also give suggestions on how to cite their data, take that into consideration.

What if the format is not what you are looking for?

  • In a citation tool you can select the format you export your citation/reference. See below for instructions
  • Use a citation formatting webpage like CrossCite; paste the DOI and choose your preferred style
  • Do it manually if all else fails. Check our additional resources at the bottom of the page for links and books

Caution! When you find datasets through a registry repository like, don't cite the registry! Instead, go the specific URL. If your purpose is to cite the registry then use the citation tool

Example of citing data from Dryad repository and in Zotero (source)


If you are using Zotero as a citation tool, select the 'Extra' field in the 'Info' panel of your document (as primary Item Type select Journal Article, especially if you are citing research data from a paper) and fill in 'itemType: dataset'. This will mark your citation as a dataset, providing all the functionality needed.

source: Zotero forums

Here's how ot do it:

detail from zotero interface


In EndNote you can directly add a dataset as a citation type. You can do that either from the online library or the browser plugin

  1. From the EndNote online library:
    • go to your references list
    • click on the title and change manually the field "Reference type" to "Dataset"
  2. From the browser plugin 'Capture Reference'
    • choose 'Dataset' as 'Reference Type':

detail from EndNote interface


Further Resources

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