Services include facilities for hypertext viewing and searching of complete survey documentation, an ability to draw customized and documented extracts from data sets, statistical analyses, and File Transfer Protocol (FTP) delivery of full or extracted data sets. Allied to these services is also the capacity to engage in synchronous collaborative research with colleagues at distant sites, electronic conferencing, and the ability to consult substantive experts. The prototype system is known as the GSS Data and Information Retrieval System (GSS DIRS) and contains data from the 1972-1994 GSSs. Data from the International Social Survey Program surveys and other important data sets will later be configured into similar systems.
In addition to these informational and contact services GSS DIRS provides fully documented access to GSS data as follows:
Having decided that these variables were worthy of further examination, she could go to GSS Statistical Analysis and cross-tabulate the measure about trusting people in general (TRUST) by race (RACE) or look at educational difference (EDUC or DEGREE - her choice) on the measure of Blacks trusting Whites (RACTRUST). If these inspections seemed promising, she could use GSS Extract to save all cases from all years for the variables RACE, TRUST, EDUC, and RACTRUST in SPSS format on her hard drive and request a customized mini-codebook for these variables.
Now suppose another researcher wanted to examine President Carter's contention that America was suffering from malaise in the late 1970s. Getting into GSS Electronic Codebook he could search for either 'malaise' as a keyword or subject heading. He would come up empty. He might then try a synonym like 'debility' or a related term like 'dispirited', but he still won't find anything. Rather than giving up (since his colleague had told him that the GSS had data on this topic), we might scroll through the entire codebook to see its whole contents. This would be a slow slog, equivalent to thumbing through 750 pages in the printed codebook. More expeditiously he might do a key word search on 'malaise' in the GSS Bibliography. This would find two papers and these would suggest possible variables on anomia (ANOMIA5-7), general happiness (HAPPY), marital happiness (HAPMAR), and satisfaction (SATCITY, SATFAM, SATFRND). Alternatively he could switch to Ask GSS or GSS Roundtable and ask either the GSS staff or the GSS user community for help. This would turn-up other possible variables such as the confidence in institutions battery or the measure of participation in political groups (MEMPOLIT).
Take the experienced GSS user who might go to GSS News to learn about new data sets, upcoming modules, etc. then go to GSS Statistical Analysis to crosstabulate RACE and HAPPY (already knowing the mnemonics), download the table, and then exit the system.
GSS DIRS has been available to the public since May 15, 1996.
Tom W. Smith
NORC, University of Chicago