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SOCI 208: Research Methods: Tips for Using the GSS

Getting Started with the GSS

  1. Create an account for the GSS Data Explorer. This is free and you only need to supply a username, email address, and password. You do not have to disclose your name or institutional affiliation if you chose not to. There is also now an option to connect using a Google account, if you are comfortable with that.
  2. When you login, you will see the MyGSS dashboard. This is a central space through which you can access saved variables, saved searches, and previously run tabulations. 
  3. To get started searching, click Search GSS Variables in the gray shaded box on the right hand side of the screen. This box appears on most pages when you are logged in. 
  4. The GSS has two search options: Keyword Search and Filter Search.
  5. To use Keyword Search, simply type in a keyword. As you type, you may see an autocomplete menu pop up which highlights some of the top variable descriptions for that particular search. You can click on the variable description to see more information about that question and variable. The more effective way to search with keywords is to type in your keyword and then click the orange Search button. This will give you a list of all the results that match that keyword. You can limit your search results by using the menu directly above the search box. It defaults to saying All, but gives you options to narrow results by variable names, variable descriptions, survey questions, or GSS tags. (Screenshot on next page.) Please note: the keyword search is very sensitive in that adding a space after a keyword can change your results.
  6. To search using the Filter by option, click on the drop down arrow in this box to see a list of all variables (or what the GSS here calls tags). You can use the search box within this pop-up to search for GSS tags or modules, or browse the A-Z list of each. Click the check-box next to the variable(s) you want to investigate, click outside the Filter by menu to close it, and then click the orange Search button.
  7. Your results will show all the variables associated with the tag or module you chose. You can search more than one tag or module at a time; the search results will include all variables for whichever tag(s) or module(s) you select. If you click on the Show Expanded View button near the search box, your results will all show up with the survey question displayed directly below the variable name and description.
  8. The green and gray horizontal bar will show for what years data is available for each question. A solid green or hashmarked green bar indicates the question was asked in a given year; gray indicates the question was not asked. 
  9. Clicking the Add to MyGSS button in the search results list will save the variable to your account for later use.
  10. Clicking on a variable name will give you the full information about a question, an option to Save to MyGSS, and links to related variables. You will also see a table showing the raw data for responses to this question. To learn how to calculate percentages from the data, see the tab "Calculating Percentages from Raw Data."


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Carrie Pirmann
Bertrand Library
Research Help Area, Room 112
Office Hours:
Monday - Friday, 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM