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Digital Research

This guide provides an overview of tips, support, and resources available to complete digital research projects at American University.

Step 2: Collect, Analyze, and Manage Data

In this step, you will dive into your research. It is in this step that you will begin collecting data, content or files for your work; analyzing your research materials; and/or creating new content to use in a digitally published final product. Whether working with digitized or born-digital content and files, researchers must consider issues such as access, copyright, hosting, and storage. You will need to think about where to store your research materials, where to keep backup copies, and how to maintain the files that are the basis of your digital project. For some digital projects, the final product is not always the last step of the project. Many projects need at least periodic attention after completion to ensure access and long-term viability. 

Tasks to Complete During this Step

  • Identify the data, content and/or digital assets that will need to be collected or developed for your project.
  • Gather or create the data or digital assets required to complete your project.
  • Organize all digital assets and identify metadata where applicable.
  • Clean and prepare your data for analysis, structuring it with your research outcomes in mind and ensuring proper formatting for the platform you will use for analysis.
  • Analyze research data using the accepted methods and standards for your field and for the type of project you’ve chosen.
  • Consider creating a Data Management Plan that outlines how you will use existing data, collect new data, and store data for your project.
  • Consider what the product’s future content needs may be:
    • Determine long-term hosting and storage of files necessary for your project, both those that will be analyzed for the research project and those that may need to be retrieved on a regular basis to keep your project running.
    • Determine which files may accumulate over time and how to organize and maintain them.

Questions to Consider During this Step

  • Do you have access and permission to use any datasets, content, or files that already exist? 
  • Will you need to build extra time into your project timeline to digitize physical items? If so, who will do this digitization?
  • Is the data you are using already cleaned and/or encoded to make it ready for analysis? If not, who will do the cleaning?
  • Which files and platforms are necessary to keep your project running? How will you maintain them over time?
  • Will you be adding new content after the project is completed or just doing necessary updates?
  • How will you share your data with others who may want to reproduce your research?

Resources for Step 2

Research Data Across the Lifecycle: This subject guide from the AU Library shares information on how to care for the data that you generate during your research: how to make it discoverable and reusable by others, how to publish or share it, and how to protect and preserve it. 

Knowledge Clip: FAIR Data Principles: This short (4m 54s) YouTube clip produced by Ghent University explains the FAIR Data Principles and explains how to show evidence of your methods and analyses so that others can verify your findings and the correctness of your results. It shows ways in which you can make your own research data more Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable.

Data Management Plans: AU Library's subject guide about how to create a Data Management Plan (DMP), which is increasingly required by federal agencies like NIH and NSF for the grant application process.

DMP Self-Assessment Tool: This step-by-step guide from Purdue University walks you through the process of creating your DMP and making sure that it has all the necessary components.

Copyright at American University: This guide provides information about U.S. copyright law, including rights of users, permission, and the public domain.