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Library PG Tips

Research data management

Video transcript

This session is an introduction to research data management for your dissertation. 

What this session will cover

  • What is research data management?

  • What is a research data management plan?

  • Storing, saving and organising your data

  • Data protection 

  • Additional support/resources


What do we mean by “research data”?

Research data refers to the data that you produce as part of your research. This can be things like:

•Documents [text, Word], spreadsheets

•Laboratory notebooks, field notebooks, diaries

•Questionnaires, transcripts, codebooks

•Audiotapes, videotapes, photographs, films

•Test responses

•Slides, artefacts, specimens, samples

•Data files

•Database contents (video, audio, text, images)

•Models, algorithms, scripts


Why actively manage your research data?

  • It’s good research practice

  • Effective and efficient way of working – makes life easier!

  •  Keeps your data safe – no data loss disasters


Research data management plans 

A research data management plan is ideally a living document that you put together when embarking on your research project. 

It will define how your research data will be…

  • stored

  • saved

  • organised

  • shared

  • preserved


Things you will need to consider:

  • What kind of data will you produce?

  • How much data will be generated?

  • Where will you store the data? 

  • How will keep the data secure?

  • What’s your back-up strategy?

We will be looking at these considerations in turn, in this session. 


Storing your research data securely

Let’s start with storing your data securely. 

This is a real-life example of a researcher at Cambridge University who was in the habit of storing his data on lab tables! This is an extreme example of what not to do. 

There are lots of different options to choose from when it comes to storing your data. Let’s look at the 4 most common choices, starting with personal PCs. 


Storage options 

Personal PCs/laptops. 

Limited to a fixed location, in terms of access to files. If the computer’s hard drive is physically damaged or corrupted, then your files are likely to be damaged or corrupted in turn. It’s advised therefore that you don’t store master copies of your data on personal PCs.  

Next we have network drives:

-Stored in a single place and backed up regularly

-Available to you as and when required

-Stored securely minimising the risk of loss or theft

Thirdly we have external storage devices:

Man finds USB stick with Heathrow security plans, Queen’s travel details. On the flash drive were 76 folders of files, including security documents and maps of the airport. The maps included the location of every closed circuit television (CCTV) camera at the airport; routes and security protection measures for the Queen, Cabinet ministers and visiting foreign dignitaries; and maps of the airport's tunnels and escape shafts for the Heathrow Express train station.


Cloud Storage 

Is a cloud computing model that stores data on the internet, through a cloud computing provider, who manages and stores the data.

As a Sussex student you automatically get a Terabyte (1TB) of cloud storage space with Microsoft OneDrive for the University of Sussex.

University affiliated Box and OneDrive profile accounts are both GDPR (general data protection regulation - an EU law that regulates data protection and privacy) compliant (staff and student accounts). That’s because the University has specifically instructed their institutional data repository cloud centre to be located in the EU. However, if a student or staff member were to create a personal profile account with OneDrive or Box not affiliated with the university account, they couldn’t guarantee that THAT data repository/centre would be located in the EU and meet with GDPR. They advise to check with the provider to be sure. 

Looking into that further, I found the below on Microsoft’s website, which suggests that if you create a OneDrive account while residing in an EU country, your data is stored in that geo-location, and “meets data residency requirements.” But I suppose Brexit could potentially muddies the waters with this… if Britain leaves the EU then potentially Microsoft are not legally bound to store British data in EU-centric centres, unless Britain decides to carry on GDPR compliancy.

So the take-way would be that if you want to use Box or OneDrive, use your institutional-affiliated account to be sure. [IT have a GDPR compliant list of software]


Microsoft OneDrive Access (screenshot)

To access OneDrive, log-in to OneDrive online, using your Sussex username and password to access your files and edit them using Microsoft Office programmes. 


Appropriate data file types & formats

Uk Data Service 

Contains the UK's largest collection of UK and international social, economic and population data.They have a comprehensive “Manage Data” section on their website with a section dedicated to recommended formats for research data. For example, 



Storing your data securely

You only need one 1 byte of data to corrupt, for an entire file to become compromised - always back-up!


3-2-1 Back-up Rule

It is recommended that all researchers follow the 3-2-1 backup rule.Have at least 3 copies of your research data in at least 2 different locations and one cloud copy.

Ensure that your data are protected with encryption, strong passwords and as limited access as appropriate. Consult IT's security policy to confirm you are selecting the appropriate storage locations for your data.


Saving your data securely

-Never use your email address as a username

-Do not log-in to untrusted PC or networks

-Do not use obvious passwords e.g. DOB, phone number

-Replace letters with numbers, and add special characters 

Organising your data files

You may not think it, but how you organise your files will also play a part in their management, not to mention your ease of access. It’s important to consider a standardised file structure. 


Would you know what these files contain in a year’s time?

Screenshot of file types. There are a number of best practices when it comes to labelling your data.


Labelling conventions

- Order by date, subject or type

- Avoid spaces, underscores, full stops, special characters or capital letters

- If starting a version schema give yourself enough room for future expansion e.g. v001 not v1


Labelling by date

Use the American style date labelling system i.e. year month date, rather than date month year. 


Data protection

If your research requires you to store personal data, you will need to ensure that the data you are using and storing is secure, and protects the privacy of the individuals.

  • Collect the minimum amount of personal data necessary and avoid collecting any personal information that you don't need.

  • Store any personal data in an appropriate, secure location, e.g. a locked filing cabinet, or password-protected or encrypted online files.

  • Avoid sending or storing personal data over unsecure networks such as via email or in cloud services like Dropbox.

  • Process and safely destroy any personal data as soon as they are no longer needed, for example promptly downloading and saving interview recordings from your phone or recording device into a password protected file.

  • If you will be annonymising data (e.g. interview responses) to protect participants' confidentiality, make sure you do this. Have a system for anonymously labelling each response such as assigning a letter, number, or changing their name (Participant A, Interviewee 1, 'Johnny').

 JISC have a guide to this on their website, which can be found at:


Additional Support

We are nearing the end of this seminar, and we will finish with information about the support services that are available to you.



MANTRA is a free, online non-assessed course with guidelines to help you understand and reflect on how to manage the digital data you collect throughout your research. It has been crafted for the use of post-graduate students, early career researchers, and also information professionals. It is freely available on the web for anyone to explore on their own.


Skills Hub

The first of which is Skills Hub - an online academic skills portal supporting your studies. You’ll find support and guidance on writing, researching, referencing, skills workshops, and how to book 1-2-1 support.


1-2-1 Support

You can book a 1-2-1 session with the Library, for help and training with your research skills. These can be requested by clicking on Workshops and Tutorials, and the Research Support 1-2-1 link, which you will find on the left hand side menu. To request, simply submit the request form. While the Library building remains closed as part of the national measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, we are offering 1-2-1 support in online format, either via a Zoom call, or via email.


Library contact details

If you have any other queries, you can contact the Library either by email, or chat live with a member of staff during the weekdays, with our live chat option.

Thank you for watching this seminar. Your feedback is very much appreciated, thanks!


For this activity we will look at files that you are using for your work e.g. PDF articles you may have downloaded. This will help you to start embedding the principles of good research data management into your workflow, and make your research more usable and secure over a longer period. These may seem like basic steps, but taking time to get these fundamentals in place is essential to good data hygiene.

Activity one: create folders for your literature search

Think about the materials that you have been downloading for your literature review. How have you been saving these so far? When helping with 1-2-1’s we often see desktops covered in PDF files with no folder structure or hierarchy. If this sounds familiar (no judgement), now is a good opportunity to take the time to address this.

There is not necessarily one correct way to organise folders but think about what makes most sense and what will make the files within them easiest to find. For example, with your particular project, would it make most sense to have folders named by topic, date or type of material? Will you need subfolders? As Candela Sanchez explains:

Thinking about how to organise your literature will actually help you in writing your literature review. This is because the way in which you organise your literature — and I mean your files, in folders — is very much part of the process of making sense of the links and relations between those very papers; and that is at the core of writing a good literature review. Think of it like making a mind map of everything you are reading (2019, p.9).

Activity two: rename the files within these folders

Now that you have created a system of folders, you can move your files into the corresponding folder and rename accordingly. ITS provide guidance on file naming conventions, in particular how best to name the files that you are creating e.g. different versions of a Word document.

However, we’re going to focus on the files that you have downloaded i.e. articles for your literature review. Similarly to naming the folders, choose a file naming structure that makes sense in the context of your project – and use the same structure for all of the literature you’ve downloaded. Sanchez suggests the following structure:

Author_Year_Title of the article_KEY WORD_KEY WORD_KEY WORD
The reason for this is that creating a naming strategy will mean that you can a) find articles quickly, without needing to open each file to see what it is all about; and b) adding the KEY WORDS at the end of the file name 10 will also enable to use your search function and sieve through all of your literature fast when you are looking for specific themes (2019, p.9).

Activity three: back-up the data (i.e. the files and folders)

Our Research Support team recommend that you keep at least three copies of your data so that is what we will do for this activity. It is also important that these back-ups are kept in different places. For example, if you saved your data to your laptop, an external hard drive, and a memory stick but kept them all in the same bag; everything would be lost if that bag was stolen. Choosing cloud storage can be a good option and as a Sussex student you automatically get a Terabyte (1TB) of cloud storage space with Microsoft OneDrive for the University of Sussex (as explained in the video).

This final test of the PG tips programme will be a little different to previous quizzes: only you will know the answer! Be honest with yourself, and if the answer to any of the questions is ‘no’, go back and complete the corresponding activity.


1. Is your data kept in sensibly named folders that will be easy to find in three months time?

2. Are the files within these folders all named consistently; can you tell what the file contains simply by reading the file name?

3. Have you saved three copies of your data, in two different locations, with one of them being cloud based?

Ask us Anything - Live Q&A with the Library
Thursday 16 July @ 11 am
hands holding cup of tea



Full details coming soon!