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Data Management

This guide is to help you prepare a data management plan.



Metadata are structured information that provides context for research data, and in doing so enables discovery, use, exchange, and preservation of that data. 

What to document

  • Scope and structure - Do your best to describe the content, formats, and any internal relationships in your dataset.
  • Glossaries and legends - Define any terms, codes, and variables that you use.
  • Context - Provide details relevant for validation/replication (e.g. funding sources, timetables, collaborators, location, and environmental conditions).
  • Methods - Describe techniques, software, and hardware used in data collection.
  • Analysis - ‚ÄčDescribe steps you took in processing and analyzing your data.
  • Attribution - Cite your data sources.
  • Access - Provide details about confidentiality, access & use conditions of your data.

Associated documentation

Other materials associated with your primary data set, including those listed below, should be digitized and included with your data. They should also at least be referenced in your data description or Readme, if not fully described:

  • Code books or lab books
  • Data dictionaries
  • Field notes

Important metadata elements

According to ICPSR documentation, the following metadata elements should be included:

  • Principal investigator
  • Funding sources
  • Data collector/producer
  • Project description
  • Sample and sampling procedures
  • Weighting
  • Substantive, temporal, and geographic coverage of the data collection
  • Data source(s)
  • Unit(s) of analysis/observation
  • Variables
    • Exact question wording or the exact meaning of the datum
    • Universe information
    • Exact meaning of codes
    • Missing data codes
    • Unweighted frequency distribution or summary statistics
    • Imputation and editing information
    • Details on constructed and weight variables
    • Location in the data file when relevant
    • Variable groupings
  • Technical information on files
  • Data collection instruments
  • Citations to related publications
  • Technical information on files, e.g., information on file formats, file linking
  • Data collection instruments
  • Interviewer guide
  • Coding instrument

For more information on Metadata see this Research Guide

Metadata Standards for the Social Sciences

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