Large-scale register data for quantitative social research

Methodology courses and philosophy of science

Course information

ECTS: 2.5 
Number of sessions: 4
Hours per session: 4
Course fee:

  • free for PhD candidates of the Graduate School
  • €475,- for non-members
  • consult our enrolment policy for more information


Telephone: +31 (0)10 4082607 (Graduate School)

Session 1
May 20 (Monday) 2019
Tinbergen building (directions), room HT-209

Session 2
May 27 (Monday) 2019
Mandeville building (directions), room T3-52

Session 3
June 3 (Monday) 2019
Tinbergen HT-209 building (directions), room HT-209

Session 4
June 17 (Monday) 2019
Tinbergen HT-209 building (directions), room HT-209



Administrative government registers at Statistics Netherlands are increasingly used by scholars from the social sciences and humanities. This course –a collaboration between the Graduate School for Social Sciences and Humanities, UvA (Department of Sociology) and CBS- offers an introduction to using such register data for social research with the emphasis on practical applications. It is aimed at students who plan to work with large-scale register data in the near future.

Learning objectives

  • Basic understanding of the structure and availability of Dutch register data at Statistics Netherlands;
  • Understand issues like privacy, advantages and disadvantages of register data and specific data issues;
  • Obtain insight into register data manipulations (how to link data from different sources, how to select populations and sampling periods, how to prepare your data set for analysis) and register data analysis;
  • Learn how to translate a theoretical research question into a ‘plan of action’: how to operationalise your research ideas with the existing register data.

Aims and working method

The first session will take place at the CBS. There are four weekly sessions of 3-4 hours each. Sessions are a mix of lectures, practical assignments and workshops. Students will work with data sets and laptops. Participants will be informed well in advance by email on how to prepare. There is a homework assignment between session 3 and 4.

Target Group

Students following this course are expected to have:

  • Quantitative background: experience with survey or register data and experience with multivariate analysis in e.g. Stata or SPSS
  • Intention to work with Dutch register data within one year  (e.g. as a PhD or postdoc, for writing a veni-proposal)
  • Have a basic understanding of Dutch, since most of the documentation at CBS is in Dutch
  • If you are in doubt about your background, contact the Graduate School office (Jan Nagtzaam: or the course instructors.

Session descriptions

Session 1: 
Lectures: introduction to register data.

  • The Dutch context: Introduction to CBS, Dutch administrative registers.
  • Advantages and pitfalls of using register data for scientific research
  • Privacy protection: theory and practice at CBS
  • Research examples

Session 2: 
Lecture and workshop: working with register data at CBS

Practical assignment

  • ´Playing with the data´: getting to know the data
  • Homework: preparing a simple research question to test on the data, related to your actual research topic as much as possible

Session 3: 
Lecture: how to write a global plan of analysis (GAP, with template)

Practical assignment

  • Analysing the data to answer your research question
  • Homework: Fill in a GAP-template for your own research using information from the CBS-catalogs online

Session 4: 
Workshop: from research question to analysis plan

Attendance for all four sessions is mandatory as each session builds upon the previous

About the instructors

Marjolijn Das is endowed professor  Urban Statistics at The Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Erasmus University, appointed at the Leiden Delft Erasmus Centre for BOLD Cities and a senior statistical researcher at Statistics Netherlands. 


Ruben van Gaalen is endowed professor Register analyses of Life Course Dynamics at the Department of Sociology, University of Amsterdam and a senior statistical researcher at Statistics Netherlands.

Both have extensive experience with social scientific research using CBS register data and surveys.