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Research Data Management Guide: Cite other datasets

This guide aims to provide information and resources to support best practice in managing research data at Charles Darwin University (CDU).

What are the benefits of citing data?

The citing of publications such as articles and books is a standard scholarly practice. Increasingly, there is an emphasis on citing data.  Possible benefits of data citation include:

  • Readers of a paper can identify and locate the data underlining the publication
  • Facilitates the sharing and reuse of datasets
  • Ensures that data contributors are properly acknowledged when the work is reused by others, avoids plagiarism
  • Allows for a publication's research results to be verified
  • Makes it easier to discover existing data that could be relevant to other research questions
  • Recognises data as a primary research output rather than a by-product of research
  • Allows for the use of data citation metrics to measure impact of a dataset or data contributor/producer
  • Creation of a scholarly structure than can be used as a basis for recognising and rewarding data producers in the same way as for more traditional publications
  • Promotes the transparency of research
  • Increase in the quantity and quality of data published
  • Increase in the rate of scientific research

Citing datasets using APA Referencing Style

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association does provide some guidance on citing a dataset. Information can be found in section 7.08 - Data Sets, Software, Measurement Instruments, and Apparatus (p. 210-11).

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC : Author.

Copies of this item are available in the CDU Library catalogue.   

Use either format:

        Rightsholder, A. A. (Year). Title of program (Version number) [Description of form]. Location: Name of producer.
        Rightsholder, A. A. (Year). Title of program [Description of form]. Retrieved from http://xxx

A couple of things to note (see the Publication Manual for full list and description):

  • The title of a data set should be italised (but not software, program or language titles)
  • Examples of 'Description of form' include [Data set] and [Data file and code book]
  • Give the location and name of the organisation that produced the work, but if the program (dataset) can be downloaded, give this information instead


Include the name of the dataset and the version number.

Tips for citing data

The majority of style guides/manuals do not provide explicit guidance on how to cite research data. For further information see:   Newton, M. P., Mooney, H., & Witt, M. (2010). A description of data citation instructions in style guides. Libraries Research Publications. Paper 121.

When deciding how to best cite research data, the following tips will be useful:

  • If you are a student, check with your supervisor if your style manual/guide does not provide any advice
  • Consider using the minimum format for citing data from DataCite, as described below
  • Carefully check through supporting documentation supplied with the data as a preferred citation may have been included
  • Some data centres/repositories and societies may provide more specific guidance on how to cite data within those disciplines, as may the journal within which you are seeking to publish
  • Refer to the data in the methods section and include the citation to the data in the references section

Standards for data citation

Standards for data citation vary across disciplines. Some data repositories and archives provide formats for citing data as part of the metadata record for the dataset.

DataCite – International Data Citation Initiative (DataCite) is a not-for-profit global association whose purpose is to promote science and research. One of its objectives is to support researchers by providing methods to locate, access and re-use datasets and to cite data with confidence.

DataCite recommends the minimum format for citing data is creator, publication year, title, publisher and identifier.  Optional elements (included as appropriate) are version and resource type.  Using these elements, the recommended form of a data citation is:

  • Creator (Publication Year): Title. Publisher. Identifier
  • Creator (Publication Year): Title. Version. Publisher. Resource Type. Identifier


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