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Research Data Management

Information on best practices and standards for data and code management.


Once you have set up your file organization, storage, and file naming conventions, it’s a good idea to think about how you will document your project. Our rule of thumb is: If it happened during your project, chances are you need to document it!

It’s really useful when, let’s say, you are trying to go back to some data from 6 months ago and you forget what it is, or why you named a variable a certain way, or you forget when it was collected. By keeping documentation such as README files (which give a high-level overview of files in a given project and how they can be used) and codebooks (files that document variables and their meaning).

We recommend that you document your work with the following files at least:

  • a README file for every folder that describes the files in your folder and explains the naming convention you used
  • a codebook that defines specific details of your data  -- the variables, column headers for spreadsheets, participant aliases, or qualitative tags are some examples of facets of a dataset that should be described in a codebook.


Metadata is structured information describing the characteristics of a resource; for example, the dates associated with a dataset or the title and author of a book. 

Metadata supports: 

  • Discovery (i.e. the findability and citability) of your data

  • Re-use of other researchers of your data in pursuit of knowledge 

  • Long-term preservation of resources. metadata pointing to a picture of a black cat

In order for your data to be used properly by you, your colleagues, and other researchers in the future, they must be documented. Planning what metadata will be captured and how this data will be structured should occur at the beginning of a research project, before data collection begins. Doing so will make automation of metadata creation easier and reduce the need for time-consuming metadata capture or restructuring later in the lifecycle of the research project.



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