Start early and follow a plan
One of the most important things you can do to manage your data is to plan how you're going to do it early on, before you start collecting data. These recommendations apply to a project at any stage, and can be implemented whenever, but we recommend planning ahead if possible.
Make a data management plan (DMP)
The first step of managing your data is to make a DMP that will cover how you will be collecting and storing your data (this is covered earlier in the guide). Most funders require a DMP with your grant submission and some of the sections will with other data management tasks.
Create a data dictionary
Unlike a DMP, a data dictionary is a record of each variable and data field that you are going to collect in your project. A data dictionary can be a text file or a spreadsheet, and it should contain variable names (both machine-readable and plain language), the format of the data (numeric, text, multiple choice answers), measurement type (kg or lb?), why you are collecting this data, and how you are collecting this data.
Before you start generating lots of files, create a file naming convention that you will use to name all of your files. This will stop confusion about what file is more recent or contains the data from which experiment, and makes it easiesr to analyze your data.
One part of some DMPs is estimating how much data will be collected over the course of the project and how it will be stored. This is a good practice in any research project: try to estimate how much storage will be required, and how you will store data. Do you need a new external hard drive, or can all your data be stored on the cloud. Are there any privacy concerns with your data?
There are resources available to all Temple researchers, and ITS can also help with securely storing sensitive data.
Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELN)
When storing data in spreadsheets, follow these best practices.