How do I cite raw data from a survey or poll I created? How do I cite published data?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.
Citing Data You Collected
In a report on data collected from a survey you designed and distributed, clarify the data source in the body of the report instead of creating a works-cited-list entry for the survey. Be sure to explain in detail the methodology you used—that is, how you distributed the survey and collected and sorted responses. It’s also good practice to make the survey instrument available to readers, either by including it as an appendix to your report or by providing a link to it in an endnote. Some researchers even make their data sets available to readers, often in an Excel file.
You may want to anonymize your data in the report on your findings. There are two options for anonymizing survey responses: you can use generic language to report a finding (e.g., “one respondent commented …”), or you can use pseudonyms for respondents. If you decide to use pseudonyms, place a note at the first instance that indicates that the names of survey respondents have been changed to preserve their anonymity.
Citing Data Collected by Others
When citing published data—such as data from Google Trends, the United States Census, or the MLA Language Map—you’ll need to point readers to the source. If the data are included in a report, use in-text citations keyed to works-cited-list entries to cite the information.
Of the 321,144 speakers of Greek in the United States in 2010, nearly a quarter (72,864) lived in New York State (MLA Language Map).
MLA Language Map Data Center. Modern Language Association, apps.mla.org/map_data.
Some research organizations make large amounts of data available for personal use. The National Center for Education Statistics, for example, allows users to run customized queries from the data in its Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (nces.ed.gov/ipeds/). To cite data subsets created from such sources, identify your query terms in the text or an endnote and, if possible, give readers access to your customized data tables, ideally as figures in the text; it’s not necessary to create a works-cited-list entry.