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Managing Your Research Data

Tips & tools to help you manage your research data with less stress


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.
  • Use common, open file formats whenever you can, like txt, csv, odf, png
  • Identify your ethical and legal obligations for handling your research 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).