A codebook describes the contents, structure, and layout of a data collection. A well-documented codebook “contains information intended to be complete and self-explanatory for each variable in a data file".

Codebooks begin with basic front matter, including the study title, name of the principal investigator(s), table of contents, and an introduction describing the purpose and format of the codebook. Some codebooks also include methodological details, such as how weights were computed, and data collection instruments, while others, especially with larger or more complex data collections, leave those details for a separate user guide and/or data collection instrument.

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