Full name harmonised standard

Policy details

Metadata item Details
Publication date:27 November 2020
Owner:GSS Harmonisation Team
Who this is for:Users and producers of statistics
Type:Harmonisation standards and guidance

What is harmonisation?

Harmonisation is the process of making statistics and data more comparable, consistent and coherent. Harmonisation produces more useful statistics that give users a greater level of understanding.

What do we mean by full name?

Full name is a unique identifier for individuals. It includes first name, middle name(s) and last name. Depending on data need, a middle name may or may not be required. Collecting full name, including middle name where appropriate, will improve the probability of successful data linkage. Some cultures state their family name first, therefore clarification may be needed on which name is provided for first and last name.

Questions and response options (inputs)

The harmonised question on this topic is designed to collect basic information, for use in the majority of surveys. It is not designed to replace questions used in specialist surveys where more detailed analysis is required.

The question

Question stemResponse options
What is your name?First name: [free text]
Middle name(s): [free text]
Last name: [free text]

Using this standard

Guidance for data collection

Depending on data need, clarification may be required on which name is provided for first name and last name. This is because of cultural variation in whether the family name is stated first or last. Reasons to guide respondents to put their family name as their last name may be if computer assisted interviewing tools only pipe forward first names (and as such respondents may not be distinguishable if  the household is one family group and family names are given first).

If this variable is only collected to know what to refer to a respondent as, however, and is not intended to be used as a linkage variable, then the order of names is less important.

Depending on data need, a middle name may or may not be needed. However, to improve successful data linkage, it is encouraged to collect a middle name where appropriate. If no data need is established for middle names, it is recommended that only necessary data is collected.

Question placement

Demographic questions such as full name are usually placed near the start of a survey.

Types of data collection this standard is suitable for

These questions are used in both self-complete (such as online or paper) and interviewer led (such as telephone or face-to-face) surveys.

For interviewer led surveys it is not always necessary to provide a specific question on name as this information may be established before the interview starts. For self-complete surveys, however, a question is important.

In computer assisted self-complete mode, do not include labels inside the free text boxes where names are to be input. This is called ghost text and cannot be read by screen readers which makes it inaccessible.

Using this question in the Welsh language

This harmonised standard was designed in the English language. At present we do not provide a Welsh language translation, as user demand for this standard is UK wide and Welsh language testing has not been completed to ensure a translation is comparable and appropriate. Harmonised standards based on Census research have been tested in the Welsh language, which is why we are able to provide Welsh versions of them. If you are interested in using a Welsh language version of a harmonised standard that has not been translated, please contact us at Harmonisation@statistics.gov.uk.


The responses to this question should not be output as they contain personal and identifiable information. The importance of having comparable data from this question, therefore, is due to the utility of comparable identifiers for data linkage.

Further information

This standard was updated in November 2020. In this update, a question stem was added to facilitate suitability for self-complete modes. To improve the probability of successful data linkage, a response option and guidance for collecting middle names have also been included.

Related links

Links to demographic information harmonised standards:


We are always interested in hearing from users so we can develop our work. If you use or produce statistics based on this topic, get in touch by emailing Harmonisation@statistics.gov.uk.

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