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Create documentation about your research data


Documentation provides context to understand and use your data. Imagine you want to restart a research project after several months (or years!) have lapsed. Having robust documentation will make it easier for you to do so. Without it, you may not be able to re-use or replicate your previous data.


Documentation can take many forms including:

  • Methods sections
  • ReadMe.txt files
  • Research notes
  • Code books
  • Lab notebooks


Best Practices for creating documentation: 

  • Create a procedure for creating documentation for your data. The type of documentation needed and how to capture it is dependent on the research project.

  • Ideally, you should plan your documentation procedures before starting your research project.

  • Documentation should provide as much context as possible. In general, record the who, what, when, where, why and how relating to the data. Don't forget to document abbreviations, important names/locations, data processing steps, etc.

  • Your documentation should be safely stored along with your research data. See Storing & backing up your data for more info.

  • Most importantly: be consistent with your documentation practices. Consistency is key to ensuring that your data is usable in the future!  


Organize and store your data

Library contact

Joanna Thielen

Joanna Thielen

Assistant Professor
Research Data Librarian
Science Librarian for Biological Sciences, Chemistry, and Physics


Created by Name / Updated on March 17, 2017 by Name

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