The aim of this text is to provide users with an overview of the most significant features of the SOEP. At this point, the data themselve is not necessary - we actually propose that first-time users at least skim through this text before opening any of the SOEP datasets. We start by giving an overview of the contents, so any user will qickly have an idea whether the SOEP is useful for her/his research question - or may get new ideas on what to research. A documentation of the (still ongoing) developments in the SOEP over the last 30 years is presented with respect to the most relevant changes in the target population as well as the survey design. The structural elements, common to all data sets, are explained in the fourth section. Here we not only document the structure used since the beginning (now termed “SOEPclassic”), but also give an overview of the more recently introduced “SOEPlong” datasets.
Besides the SOEPcore study (in the two formats “SOEPclassic” and “SOEPlong”) the SOEP consists in recent years of even more studies, which are more or less closely connected to the SOEPcore Study. However this brief introduction focuses only on SOEPcore.