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Research Data Management: Overview

What are Research Data?

Research data are primary sources. They are factual material used to validate or refute research findings. Data can take many forms: images, text, numbers, audio clips, etc. 

Interest in research data has grown exponentially with the widespread use of technology. It is important to manage your research data throughout your research project.

Questions to Think About in the Early Stages

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.

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