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Compilations of data have become ubiquitous in this information age. Databases make these masses of information tractable. Speaking broadly, a database is any electronic compilation of information in machinereadable format. Two features characterize databases: the ability to query and summarize the data and the ability to link data within the database and across databases in a variety of ways. Because databases allow an individual to obtain relevant information from a huge mass of data, scholars use them for a wide variety of reasons: to look up individuals, find a disease based on particular symptoms, or perform statistical analyses of data. It is this last use of databases that has fueled the growth of databases in social science research.

Of particular use in social science research are ...

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