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Citing data

Referencing data is as simple as citing publications, and citations to data can be counted and used in research metrics in the same way as the citations to articles. Data citation is an essential factor to promote data access, sharing and reuse of your data.

Citing is the conventional way to acknowledge someone’s contribution to traditional research outputs, like publications. Equally, the achievements in data collection and production should be recognised. Don’t hesitate to cite your own data either.

The precondition for data citation is the proper entry to data. It is not necessary that the data is publicly open, but to generate a citation, information about data has to be available. Repositories, metadata archives and publishers’ services hold metadata records that offer reliable information to generate the citation. 


Generating a data reference is easy. Basically you can follow the same rules as when you cite publications. The main elements are:

  • Author(s) – the author can be the Principal Investigator, creator, or other roles can be named, too
  • Title – the name of a data set
  • Date – the year a data set was added to the repository
  • Publisher
  • Version number – used in cases where there is more than one version available
  • Access information – persistent digital identifier like DOI or URN is recommended


Follow the same citation style to data sets as citing literature in your publication. If the citation style you are using does not guide how to formulate the data citation, apply these examples:

Harvard Style:

  • Vetter, SG, Ruf, T, Bieber, C & Arnold, W 2015, ‘Data from: What is a mild winter? Regional differences in within-species responses to climate change’ electronic data set, Dryad Digital Repository, doi: 10.5061/dryad.11962 

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA):

  • Vetter, S. G., Ruf, T., Bieber, C. & Arnold, W. (2015). What is a mild winter? Regional differences in within-species responses to climate change [Data set]. doi: 10.5061/dryad.11962

Check what the data repository suggests

  • When the cited data belongs to a certain repository, the repository might suggest a proper way to cite or even give a ready-made citation for the retrieved data.
  • There might also be special recommendations like in the case of Dryad. Dryad recommends to cite both the original article as well as the Dryad data set.

Extra resources

This service is provided by:

Research and Innovation Services

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