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Research Data Management (RDM)

Best Practices

Keep a file with information about your project in the same folder as your other files. A rule of thumb is to write as much information as necessary to understand your data.

Project Level
  • Title: Name of the dataset or research project that produced it
  • Creator: Names and addresses of the organizations or people who created the data; preferred format for personal names is surname first (e.g., Smith, Jane).
  • Identifier: Unique number used to identify the data, even if it is just an internal project reference number
  • Date: Key dates associated with the data, including: project start and end date; release date; time period covered by the data; and other dates associated with the data lifespan, such as maintenance cycle, update schedule; preferred format is yyyy-mm-dd, or for a range
  • Method: How the data were generated, listing equipment and software used (including model and version numbers), formulae, algorithms, experimental protocols, and other things one might include in a lab notebook
  • Processing: How the data have been altered or processed (e.g., normalized)
  • Source: Citations to data derived from other sources, including details of where the source data is held and how it was accessed
  • Funder: Organizations or agencies who funded the research
File Level
  • Subject: Keywords or phrases describing the subject or content of the data
  • Place: All applicable physical locations
  • Language: All languages used in the dataset
  • Variable list: All variables in the data files, where applicable
  • Code list: Explanation of codes or abbreviations used in either the file names or the variables in the data files (e.g. '999 indicates a missing value in the data')
Technical Description
  • File inventory: All files associated with the project, including extensions (e.g. 'NWPalaceTR.WRL', '')
  • File Formats: Formats of the data, e.g., FITS, SPSS, HTML, JPEG, etc.
  • File structure: Organization of the data file(s) and layout of the variables, where applicable
  • Version: Unique date/time stamp and identifier for each version
  • Checksum: A digest value computed for each file that can be used to detect changes; if a recomputed digest differs from the stored digest, the file must have changed
  • Necessary software: Names of any special-purpose software packages required to create, view, analyze, or otherwise use the data
  • Rights: Any known intellectual property rights, statutory rights, licenses, or restrictions on use of the data
  • Access information: Where and how your data can be accessed by other researchers


Grateful acknowledgement to the University of Pennsylvania Penn Libraries for their permission to use and modify their template: Data Management Resources

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