New researchers don't realize how important detailed planning is to a successful research project. Especially if you have never done research before, the research process can be uncertain and confusing. The more specific you can be during the planning phase about data collection tools and processes, data storage, data processing and cleaning, analysis, and write-up, the better your data will be. And you will be more likely to have data that actually answer your research questions. The best thing you can do for yourself is to write your plan down in a document called a Data Management Plan. Check out the template below to get started.
While you are developing your plan, consider using these best practices:
Make sure the data you plan to collect will answer your research questions. Ask for help with statistics or other analytical techniques so you don't waste time and data.
Have a plan to back up your files and check regularly to make sure it works
If you are working with others, be sure everyone knows their responsibilities and write them down
Take better notes than you think you need
So take some time to map out your research questions, the data needed to answer them, the characteristics and standards that those data need to meet in order to produce valid answers, and document this in our Data Outcomes Mapping template (below).
This example demonstrates how to map your research questions back to characteristics and standards of the data needed to answer those questions. This activity and example is most relevant to research using quantitative data.