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Introduction to Understanding Society using Stata

19th April 2018 @ 9:30 am - 20th April 2018 @ 4:00 pm

Understanding Society collects information about individuals and the households in which they live repeatedly at one year intervals. It includes new and innovative features to allow research across different social science disciplines. To achieve the main goals of this multipurpose survey Understanding Society has a complex sample design and consequently a complex data structure. Thus, analysing the data requires a good understanding of the general structure of the survey, the sample design and the data.

Who is the course for?

This course is aimed at new users of Understanding Society, as well as those who have so far only made use of simpler aspects of the data. It aims to guide the user through the complexities of using this data for cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis, and ensure that they can make effective use of the data for their own research projects.

Do you offer an online course?

If you can’t make it to the ‘hands-on’ workshop, enrol on an online course. The hands-on workshop and the online course are exactly the same in terms of the course material. The advantage of the hands-on workshop is that you can ask the instructors questions about different aspects of the survey as well as the course materials as you work through those. To enrol you will need to fill in this online registration form. After that you will receive an email with an activation link in it. Please use this to activate your MoodleX account. Once you’ve logged in, you can either search for this course or use the this link to enrol. If you have any problems please email the course leader, Alita Nandi.

Course participants will learn about:

  • the way Understanding Society is designed
  • the Understanding Society sample design
  • which data are collected
  • how the data are collected
  • how the data are structured and stored
  • how to find variables using the interactive online documentation
  • how to access the data
  • how to prepare the data files for analysis using Stata
  • how to use weights for producing population estimates

Users will need a basic working knowledge of Stata. Without this basic knowledge of Stata the user will not be able to make optimal use of the course.

Course content and format

The course is a combination of lectures and computer lab sessions where participants will learn how to:

Use the documentation to find out what data are available.

  • Define the appropriate units of analysis for a research project, and establish the basis for selecting cases and waves of data to use.
  • Create merged longitudinal files with data from multiple waves. Learn how to combine individual and household level information for analysis.
  • Match information from separate household members to each other, so that household effects can be analysed. Select and use the appropriate weights and account for the complex survey design.
  • Learn about the issues of using the extra five minutes of question asked of the ethnic minority boost sample and a comparison sub-sample.
  • Identify and use the BHPS sample for analysis. This is particularly important for those who want to continue using the BHPS (which was integrated into the Understanding Society after 18 waves) as a standalone longitudinal dataset. Learn the basics of linking external geographical level data with Understanding Society data.

The course will be based on a series of hands-on-examples using Stata.

Participants will gain a thorough knowledge of Understanding Society, from survey design to data-set structure, and will have the tools to make the most of a rich, but complex, data set.

Location and accommodation

The course takes place at the University of Essex, Colchester campus. Accommodation is available in nearby Colchester or Wivenhoe.

Course tutors

The course is currently taught by Dr Gundi Knies, Dr Alita Nandi, Dr. Violetta Parutis, Dr Ricky Kanabar and Dr Nicole Martin from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, where Understanding Society is based.

Course materials

Participants will be given handouts of the slides, exercises and Stata do-files during the course. Electronic versions will be made available for download afterwards.

Course Prerequisites

Participants are expected to have a basic working knowledge of Stata. Basic Stata commands with which participants should be familiar:

  • starting Stata, Stata windows
  • getting help: help, search
  • working with do and log-files
  • editing do-files
  • comments, line breaks
  • working directory, working memory: dir, cd
  • opening and saving data files: use, save, compress
  • inspecting data: describe, list, inspect, summarize, count, tabulate subsetting data: in, if
  • generating and renaming variables: generate, replace, rename labelling variables: label define, label variable, label value

Participants not familiar with these Stata commands are strongly encouraged to use the resources recommended below to familiarise themselves with these commands before the course. Otherwise, participants may end up spending more time learning Stata than the complexities of Understanding Society data.

Resources for learning Stata: Books

  • Kohler, U. and Kreuter, F. (2009) Data Analysis Using Stata, 2nd ed. College Station, Texas: Stata Press.
  • Acock, A. (2014) A Gentle Introduction to Stata, 4th edition, Stata Press.

Courses and online resources


19th April 2018 @ 9:30 am
20th April 2018 @ 4:00 pm


University of Essex
NINE DTP - a collaborative partnership funded by the ESRC