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Document your research data

 

March 20, 2020 update: While the physical SFU Libraries are temporarily closed due to COVID-19 measures, we are happy to continue to support you with any research data management questions remotely. Please feel free to contact us by email at data-services@sfu.ca during this time, and we can set up a meeting via video conferencing or telephone.

 

Keeping track of the numerous components of a research project can be a challenge for researchers. Research data documentation helps ensure the meaning or significance of your data remains clear for all users over time.

Why have research data documentation?

Adding some form of documentation to your research data can play an important role in helping to ensure that others can read, understand, and interact with your work. In addition, documentation can be a valuable tool for researchers revisiting their own data in future.

Help yourself understand your dataset: you may be very familiar with your dataset in the collection stage, but the chances are slim that over time you will still remember that the variable "sglmemgp" means "single member group," for example, or what the exact algorithm was that you used to transform a variable or create a derived one.

Help others understand your dataset: other scholars may want to examine or use your data to understand your findings, verify your findings, review your submitted publication, replicate your results, or design a similar study. Documentation makes the significance of research data clear for individuals not involved in the research project themselves.

Why document your research data and how to do it

Metadata

Metadata adds explanations of significance and meaning to research data, helping to ensure that key research elements remain intelligible for future data users.

Citation

Citing data facilitates the discovery, access, and use of research data and helps guarantee that the author receives proper credit.

Reproducibility

Sharing research data responsibly can help promote scientific reproducibility and transparency while also providing another way for the researcher to get credit for their work.

Additional resources

Document your data - UK Data Service
Resources and information about the process of documenting research data.