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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Introduction to Data Management for Undergraduate Students: Data Management Overview

This guide covers the basics and best practices for data management for individuals who are new to the research and data-collecting process.

What is Data Management?

Data management is a way to organize and maintain your information through:

Creating naming standards, for consistency and easier location
Carefully recording all the details, including decisions made during the project
Saving copies of your data in more than one place to prevent loss
Making plans to store your data after project completiion

Resources

Glossary of Data Terms

The U.S. Government's open data website, data.gov, has compiled a list of important terms related to data and data management.

DataOne Best Practices

The DataONE Best Practices database provides you with guidelines and recommendations on how to effectively work with their data through all stages of the data lifecycle. Check out the left-hand column for some important tools.

Why do we need to manage our data?

Data management allows you to improve the organization of files and data you gather and use.
There are many ways you can apply these skills to your life:

 

  • Collaborate with others: Saving files in open formats results in less errors and will allow more people to open your work. 

  • Keep your computer organized: Adopting a file naming convention will increase the chance of finding the correct file.

  • Work on a project: Creating a metadata README file will help document your process for later reference. It also helps others better understand your methods and therefore increase the chance that someone will be able to repeat your work. Remember to also keep track of software used to avoid version incompatibility in the future.

  • Write papers: Documenting search strategies by writing down the database and search query, as well as using a reference manager for citations can help you recreate your work when things go wrong.

 

And to your research process:

 

  • Manage your data: Creating a Data Management Plan (DMP) to submit with your grant proposal to a funding agency. This shows data security during the study, long term storage or disposal procedures after data collection is completed, and how your research will be shared with other scientists.
  • Keep good research notes: Documenting your research process, decisions, and changes will allow you to have a reference for questions and keep track of what still needs to be done. 
  • Keep track of variables: Creating a data dictionary or a coding manual helps you better keep track of your variables and how you have scored or transformed them. It also helps other researchers understand your dataset.
  • Deposit your data: Use a repository, such as the Illinois Data Bank, to share your data and link it to your research article. This can increase the number of citation and help other researchers better repeat your findings.