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Research Data Management: Overview

What are Research Data?

Generally speaking, research data are primary sources. They are factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community to validate or refute research findings. It can consist of qualitative and quantitative variables, and is used to create new knowledge and information after it has been analyzed. Although data is commonly associated with scientific research, the term 'data' is now increasingly being associated with research across various disciplines, encompassing multiple fields, and can take many forms - e.g. images, text, numbers, audio clips, etc. With the widespread use of technology, interest in research data has grown exponentially, and has raised many interesting issues concerning its management. Data created via computers is measured in bytes - e.g. - kilobyte (kb), megabyte (mg), gigabyte (gb), etc.

Questions to Think About in the Early Stages

In the early planning stages of the research cycle, there are important questions to consider, and so developing a checklist to ensure that everything is taken care of, is a good idea. There are several examples of planning checklists available, and this one below is really good example of the types of questions that need to be asked and answered

1. Data Types & Sources: What type of data will be produced?

  • How will the data be collected?
  • Will it be reproducible? What would happen if it got lost or became unusable later?
  • How much data will it be? How often will it change?
  • Are there tools or software needed to create/process/visualize the data?
  • Is there any storage and backup strategy?

 2. Descriptive Standards & Formats: What standards will be used for documentation and metadata?

  • How will data collection be documented?
  • Is there good project and data documentation?
  • What directory and file naming convention will be used?
  • What project and data identifiers will be assigned?
  • Is there a community standard for data sharing/integration?

 3.​ ​​​Access and Use Rights: What steps will be taken to protect privacy, security, confidentiality, intellectual property or other rights?

  • Who controls it (e.g., PI, student, lab, University, funder)?
  • Any special privacy or security requirements (e.g., personal data, high-security data)?
  • Are there any embargo periods to uphold?

 4. Sharing and Permissions: If you allow others to reuse your data, how will the data be accessed and shared?

  • Any sharing requirements (e.g., funder data sharing policy)?
  • Audience? Who will use it now? Who will use it later?
  • When will I publish it and where?
  • Tools/software needed to work with the data?

 5. Preservation: How will the data be archived for preservation and long-term access?


Data Management for Researchers

Data Management Tools

The DMP Tool is a service that takes you through the steps necessary to develop a data management plan, according to the requirements of different funding bodies, including the NSF. SMU has an institutional account with the DMPTool. Choose Southern Methodist University in the Sign In dropdown menu.



The DMPonline is similar to the DMPTool, and is mostly used by researchers in the UK. 


Both tools have the same goal of improving data management practices, and facilitating the development of these data management plans.

Google Search Tip


Google is an effective platform for finding research data. Simply type in your keywords, add the word "datasets," and browse the results. Examples: social networks datasets, economic datasets, education datasets, crime datasets