What is a codebook?
A codebook describes and documents the questions asked or items collected
in a survey. Codebooks and study documentation will provide you with crucial
details to help you decide whether or not a particular data collection
will be useful in your research. The codebook will describe the subject
of the survey or data collection, the sample and how it was constructed,
and how the data were coded, entered, and processed. The questionnaire
or survey instrument will be included along with a description or layout
of how the data file is organized. Some codebooks are available electronically,
and you can read them on your computer screen, download them to your machine,
or print them out. Others are not electronic and must be used in a library
or archive, or, depending on copyright, photocopied if you want your own
for personal use.
Archive's Policy on Codebooks
Most codebooks in
the Archive are machine-readable, and can be downloaded from our
web site, provided
you meet the UCLA computing security criteria. If the data were
ICPSR, you can go to the ICPSR web
site, conduct a search by title,
author or keywords,
and download the codebooks on your own. Some studies in the
are documented with codebooks that are available only in print form. These
are not loaned
out, and may only be used in the Archive study area. The Archive
print format codebooks to an electronic, PDF format, but until this
project is complete,
and when permitted by copyright, you may make photocopies of
The cost is $.06/page.
Below is a diagram of the details
included in most codebooks. This is a simple example of a
codebook. In a complex survey,
there will be more details about the flow of questions asked
and the electronic organization
of the data. In addition to question text, the most important items
are variable names, values, value
labels, and column locations. Try to find them in the example
below and familiarize yourself
with the layout of a codebook.
Here is an explanation of the codebook
image above.The circled red numbers relate to each of
the subject headings below.
1) Item or Variable Name
This is usually a mnemonic, or nickname assigned to an individual question.
2) Variable Label
A short summary or description of question content.
3) Card and Column Locations
Indicates the electronic location of numerically coded responses to questions.
4) Question Text
Exact text of a question as delivered to a respondent.
5) Values and Value Labels
Describes the numeric and textual response options or categories to questions.
6) Valid Responses
Indicates the allowed numeric codes to question responses.
Indicates the flow of the questionnaire.
Tutorial Index | Data
Copyright 1996 Institute for Social Science
Research. Last Updated: 7-9-99 - Stephenson.