Applying the Data Perspective

Applying the “data perspective” means thinking about how data will be generated, collected, documented, organized and protected. Looking at a research idea from the “data-perspective” at an early stage is important for the acceptance of grant proposals and the success of a project. It also helps to prevent delays and unforeseen expenses or problems.

When designing your research, you need to have a clear idea of what type of data you are going to collect or create. This will make you aware of the possible limiting factors of your data. Once you have identified these factors, you can think about which ones you can mitigate, and which ones you will have to accept. This will reduce the need for major changes during the project, as well as the risk of not making the estimated deadline or budget.

Among the data-related aspects to consider are:

• The equipment you will need

• Availability of electricity, battery capacities and any other supplies that you and your equipment rely on

• Storage capacity

• Possibilities for the transfer of data

• Any ethical or legal issues

• The budget available

• The time available

Don’t forget to plan for processing the data once you have collected them. Sometimes, this processing stage follows immediately after gathering a set of data. For example, when gathering data from an archive, you need to write down information about the search and selection strategy right away. In other cases, the processing takes place at a later stage. For example, if you collect interview data in the form of audio recordings, you need to plan for a separate transcribing process.

When your research includes activities that you’re unfamiliar with, consider reserving time for a learning and training phase. This will allow you to make the most of the data collection period later on. Where possible, practice in a safe environment with your tools and methods. This could mean to become familiar with database search options, do a mock interview to become comfortable with your recording equipment and try out consent procedures, check how fast you can take notes by hand or learn to use a new software program with a test dataset first.

Make sure to check out the information provided by the research data support services from your university or faculty. Look for other publications relevant for your field as well as the information provided by leading data archives (repositories) in your country or discipline.

This entry was based on the following blog posts: