Western Libraries

Managing Research Data

A guide for researchers

Data Management

Research Data Management (RDM) describes the activities researchers carry out as they organize and maintain data throughout the research process. It can include (but is not limited to):
  • Setting up plans and processes before starting data collection
  • Keeping track of, documenting, and backing up data during the research project
  • Archiving or publishing data after the project has completed
If you collect or use data you are doing Research Data Management. Guides like this one are intended to help you manage your research data in ways that are more efficient, more sustainable over the long term, or that help you take better advantage of data tools in your research.

Starting with a plan can make life easier later on. Formal Data Management Plans (DMPs) are used when applying for research funding for a project that will involve collecting or using data. Even for unfunded research, however, sitting down before starting a project and thinking about each of the sections of a typical research data management plan can be a useful exercise.

A standard data management plan will cover:

  • Data Collection
    • What are you collecting, how are you collecting it, what technologies will you be using?
  • Documentation and Metadata
    • How are you documenting your data? See the next page of this guide for help!
  • Storage and Backup
    • Where are you putting your data? Plan to have at least two backup copies, one stored on a different medium or at a different site. Keep your data safe.
  • Preservation, Sharing and Reuse
    • Who might you share your data with? How will you do that?
  • Responsibilities and Resources
    • Think about who will do each of these tasks, and how much time it will take.
  • Ethics and Legal Compliance

The Portage Network, an initiative of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, has developed the browser tool DMP Assistant to help researchers write data plans for grant proposals; it can also be a helpful guide for thinking through your project before you get to the data collection stage. You can also contact a data librarian to ask for a consultation.