Data reuse is a common practice in the social sciences. While published data play an essential role in the production of social science research, they are not consistently cited, which makes it difficult to assess their full scholarly impact and give credit to the original data producers. Furthermore, it can be challenging to understand researchers’ motivations for referencing data. Like references to academic literature, data references perform various rhetorical functions, such as paying homage, signaling disagreement, or drawing comparisons. This paper studies how and why researchers reference social science data in their academic writing. We develop a typology to model relationships between the entities that anchor data references, along with their features (access, actions, locations, styles, types) and functions (critique, describe, illustrate, interact, legitimize). We illustrate the use of the typology by coding multidisciplinary research articles (n = 30) referencing social science data archived at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). We show how our typology captures researchers’ interactions with data and purposes for referencing data. Our typology provides a systematic way to document and analyze researchers’ narratives about data use, extending our ability to give credit to data that support research.