Guidelines for describing Data

Guidelines for describing Data

1. Introduction

Describing your data is an essential task that is vital if you plan on sharing it, but also strongly recommended for your own use in the future. Data documentation enables you and others to understand the data in detail and better enable others to properly use and cite the data.

Ideally you should begin to document your data at the very beginning of any research project and the data management plan that you are creating right now will help in this. However, there are various times during the research when documentation is important to create.

If the project is funded there is a strong chance you will need to write a report about the research process at the end of the project. Creating metadata and documentation as you go will simplify this process. Even if your project is not funded, creating documentation will help you in the future and might enable you to gain funding in the future. For examples of the types of reports you might be asked to make look through some of the project reports and documentation on the Jisc website.

Basically you should record any significant changes and decisions that you make about your data, providing details on versions and problems that emerge from that process.

On the next page are some suggestions about what such descriptive data should contain.