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Best Practices for Data Creation

While you are creating data, it is important to consider what contextual information will be necessary in order to preserve comprehension of the data for future use by you or a new user. Metadata and other documentation is necessary to orient users to the data collection.

Click on the gray bars below to see detailed information about each topic.

Metadata Basics

Metadata is data that serves to provide context or additional information about other data.
Make sure to address the following:

The people who were involved in the project and/or contributed to creation of the data (authors, research assistants, etc.)

What type(s) of data and method(s) of analysis were used?

Address the time frame for both data collection and analysis, as well as any other relevant dates.

The geographic area of the project, collection, or analysis, if applicable

What is the driving force for the project? What is the goal? What are the research questions you are attempting to answer?


Beyond the basics, consider what other information you would need to return to the project after several months or years:

File Handling
How did you name files? How are they divided? How are they organized?

Processing Steps
How to get from point A to B

Field Abbreviations or Name Glossary
It’s easy to forget what “ABC123” stands for after several months away, and anyone else looking at the data would not be able to decode those abbreviations without a glossary.

Standardizing Your Documentation

Now that you have the information necessary to appropriately document your data, make sure that you format the documentation in the standard for your discipline. A fairly comprehensive list of disciplinary metadata standards is available from the Digital Curation Center

File Naming Conventions

When naming your data files, keep in mind that file names should be:

  • Unique
  • Consistent across the collection
  • Informative when scanned quickly
  • Ideally, named in such a way that they organize themselves into a useful order when they are saved.

Some elements to consider when developing your file naming plan include dates, project name, type of data, location, and version. 

Finding Data

Information on Finding Research Data [Under Construction]

Search Data Repositories [Under Construction]

Discipline specific data repositories

Popular data repositories by subject (UMN has lists for Ag Sciences, Archaeology, Astronomy, Biological & Life Sciences, Chemistry, Computer Science/Source Code, Earth/Environmental/Geosciences, GIS/Geography, Health/Medical Science, Physics, Social Sciences)

Open Access Data [Under Construction]

Campus Resources for Creating and Handling Research Data

Sensitive Data [Under Construction]

Statistical Consulting

Information Technology Services and the Department of Statistics jointly support the Statistical Consulting Service at North Dakota State University. This service is available to all faculty, staff, and students at North Dakota University System institutions, usually at no charge.

Learn more about their services on the Statistical Consulting webpage.

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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Last Updated: Wednesday, August 01, 2018 2:18:51 PM
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