The Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library

SOCI 208: Research Methods: Tips for Using the GSS

Getting Started with the GSS

Note: A step-by-step version of these instructions with screenshots is available by viewing the Using the GSS Tutorial.

  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. (Note: If your browser asks to save your login, it will likely save your email address, not the username you chose. Make sure when you login it is with your username, not email address.)
  2. Sign in and click “Search Variables” in the sidebar on the right hand side.
  3. You can search for variables in two ways:
    1. Using the Keyword search box. Simply type in the keyword (or words - we suggest you start with one keyword) for the topic you want to search.
    2. Using the “Filter by Module / Subject” box. Click on the plus sign in this box to see a list of all variables. You can use the search box within this pop-up to look for variables, or browse the A-Z list. Click the check-box next to the variable(s) you want to investigate, the click the orange Search button. Note: the entries are arranged A-Z across columns, rather than down.
    3. Note: if you have something in the Keyword search box and want to use the Module / Subject search box (or vice versa), clear the contents of the box you are not searching with. Otherwise, you will likely get no results for your search.
  4. Your results will show all the variables associated the subject you chose (note it only displays 25 entries at a time). Using the tabs above the search results list, you can switch from variable view to survey question view. This will allow you to see the full survey questions.
  5. The “Years Available” column will show for what years data is available for each question. Since you need multiple data points for this assignment, pay careful attention to this column as you review questions.
  6. Clicking on a variable name will give you the full information about a question and a table showing the raw data for responses to this question. For this assignment, you will need to calculate percentages for the data. This process is outlined on the tab "Calculating Percentages from Raw Data."
  7. When you've identified a variable that you want to work with, click "Add to Cart" to save that variable to your data cart. You can add multiple variables to your cart before proceeding to the next step, in which you will calculate percentages from the raw data.


Subject Librarian

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