What is research data? Some Examples

what is reasearch data?

1. Introduction

2.5 Architecture

Rebecca Hacutt is a doctorate student at the University of Hull. She is studying graffiti marks on the walls within Beverley Minister (East Yorkshire). In this video Rebecca tells us about her project.

St. John of Beverley built the first structure, the original church in the 7th century AD in what is today known as the town of Beverley. This original church has long since disappeared, but it has formed the foundation of Beverley Minster.

Beverley Minster, currently a serving parish church, is a Mediaeval Gothic Minster. The church has undergone many builds and rebuilds, but the current building was constructed from about 1220 and completed 200 years later. It has formed the inspirational basis of design for structures such as Westminster Abbey, and is one of the finest examples of Perpendicular design in England.

While restorative work has been carried out over the centuries, including the necessary replacement of the collapsing original lantern tower in the 18th century, it remains a magnificent example of Gothic architecture on a grand scale.

Graffiti marks, laid down over the centuries are naturally eroded with time, and often “overwritten” by newer markings. There are obvious difficulties and challenges to extracting ‘data’ when the focus of your research is literally part of the fabric of a building. In this last video, Rebecca admits that accurately dating graffiti markings is not easy, nor is it straightforward collecting the ‘raw’ data.

Using markings on a building require that the ‘raw’ data are extracted and compiled using a combination of photographs, rubbings and first-person impressions. How does all of this transform into a database and into something that is useful as a basis for doctorate research?

Rebecca explains:

My first dilemma was to determine how I would be able to “extract” accurate images and impressions from the weathered stonework of the Minster. I soon realised that I would need more than just photographic techniques. Apart from a large collection of photographs, including various light source techniques such as infra red and ultra violet, I have produced rubbings or tracings of actual embossed areas, made interpretive sketches, and often made written notes of descriptions. Each of these materials is vital for my research and will inform my thesis.

It soon became apparent that I would need to find a means of accurately recording each element of my work in order to have a clear record of the exact location, the type of material, an estimated age, and various descriptive notes. To this end, I have developed a simple database which provides these data, but also generates unique identifiers for each item to assist in the labelling and storage of the items. It is vital that I am able to retrieve items quickly, and to identify similar items, so a database is perfect for my needs.

I am aware that my database can be at risk of becoming corrupted or even lost. More importantly, I am aware that my actual photographs, electronic and paper based, as well as the rubbings, drawings and notes I have generated could also be lost in many different ways. I need to ensure that I have a secure means of maintaining my materials and database, not only in order to complete my thesis, but for later work in my chosen career. I need a data management plan.