Documentation describes your research project and data you have collected, generated, or analyzed.
Documenting your data:
It is critical to begin documenting your data at the very beginning of your research project—even before data collection begins. Doing so makes data documentation easier and reduces the likelihood that you will forget aspects of your data later.
Documentation is often produced in a readme.txt file, a data dictionary, or a codebook.
Below are some resources that provide guidelines for creating these documents. At minimum, store documentation in a readme.txt file or the equivalent, together with the data files.
Data documentation can include information such as:
Metadata is data about your data and also a form of documentation. When writing metadata, researchers can choose among various metadata standards—often tailored to a particular file format or discipline. For example the DCMI (Dublin Core Metadata Initiative) is a simple metadata standard used to describe a variety of formats (texts, images, bibliographic records, etc.).
Guide to Writing Metadata (USGS)
Metadata and describing data (Cornell RDMSG)
Directory of disciplinary metadata (DCC) includes metadata standards for biology, earth science, physical science, social science and humanities, and general research data.
Selected metadata standards:
Social Sciences & Humanities
When documenting and sharing research data, it is essential to remove direct and indirect identifiers from your data. Below are some guides which describe these identifiers and methods for removing them.
For general guidelines, see Guide to Social Science Data Preparation and Archiving from ICPSR.
Managing Lab Notebooks
Selecting Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs)
Open Science Framework ELN Template: https://osf.io/ptdqx/
OSF is free, and Mason Libraries is a member of OSF for Institutions.
ELN Comparison Matrix: https://zenodo.org/records/4723753
Harvard’s ELN selection guide:
Lab Folder’s Comprehensive Guide to ELNs:
Nature article describing what to consider when selecting an ELN and suggestions: