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Document Research Data

A good documentation of your research data not only helps you and your project group, but also serves to improve the retrievability and re-use of the created data. Especially for a subsequent publication it is necessary that you enrich your data records with sufficient metadata. If the desired research data repository does not make any specifications regarding the documentation of the research data, a Word document may be sufficient, for example, in which you can provide further information on the published data set. You should address the following points:

  1. Context of the survey (project goals, hypotheses)
  2. Survey method (sampling method, survey instruments, hardware and software used, secondary data sources, survey location and survey period)
  3. Structure of the data and their relationships to each other
  4. Quality measures such as cleansing, weighting, data checking, etc.
  5. Data versions and the changes they contain
  6. Access information, terms of use and confidentiality

(list taken from


Metadata plays a decisive role in the publication, finding and subsequent use of primary data. Metadata contains both administrative (researcher, location, time, etc.) and content-related information (variables, measuring instrument, coordination, etc.) on the stored data set. Especially in larger working groups, in which the staff changes over several years, it is necessary to document the data obtained so well that subsequent project members can clearly see what the data is about. If the data are stored in the repository after the project, the reuse and citability of the data increases if they are enriched with good metadata.

An overview of discipline-specific and interdisciplinary metadata standards can be found on the Digital Curation Centre page.