Creating data from scratch can be costly and complicated. Whether you’re aiming to save time and money, expand a small sample size, ask new questions of a body of information, or reproduce someone else’s results, re-using existing data is an integral part of research. Finding the right data and making use of it, however, can be a challenge.
- Know your source. Finding a repository of data relevant to your discipline can be difficult, but re3data.org, a global registry of data repositories, can help you locate subject-specific data sources and determine whether they are appropriate for you.
- Ask for guidance. Find your subject specialist for help locating existing data sets relevant to your research question.
Creating data from scratch?
Specific recommendations are tricky because every project is so different, but if you are producing or collecting your own data consider the following:
- Test your plan. Think through your data collection strategy from start to finish and consider a pilot run. This will highlight any issues with your tools or instruments and help ensure that you can process any data you produce.
- Automate. Avoid unnecessary data entry later on by using built-in features in your capture devices to document as you go. Just make sure you understand and keep track of any preprocessing that might be happening behind the scenes.
- Create snapshots. At the very least, be sure to keep secure and backed-up copies of your data in their rawest form (prior to cleaning or processing). You may also want to save snapshots of your datasets at various stages of processing.
- Ensure compliance. Make sure that your project complies with all applicable laws, regulations, and UT policies.
Tools and Resources
- Check with The Office of Research Support for important compliance information about research involving: Human Subjects, Animal Research, rDNA and Biosafety, and Conflict of Interest.
- Qualtrics, the preferred tool for campus surveys, is available for use by faculty, staff, and students and is approved for most Confidential data (including HIPAA, FERPA, and IRB).
- REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture) is a secure, web-based application for building and managing online surveys and databases.
- See these useful tips on data entry and manipulation best practices from DataOne.
- Use this searchable database of software tools from DataOne to find the best tools for the job. Descriptions and recommendations (with links to resources) are provided for a wide variety of tools.