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Data management planning

Before beginning a research project, researchers must plan for how they will manage the research data collected during their project. The planning process involves considering questions such as:

  • How will the data be securely stored, both during the project and after it finishes?
  • How will data files be named and organised? 
  • How will the collected data be analysed and interrogated?
  • How do you intend to share your findings at the end of your research project?
  • Will your data management practices adhere to legislation, organisational rules and policies?

Questions such as these are addressed in the project's Data Management Plan (DMP) -- see the next tab in this box for more information.

Types of research data

Research data is "any information that has been collected, observed, generated or created to validate original research findings" (University of Leeds, n.d.) and may be in digital or hard-copy forms.

Common types of research data include:

  • Excel spreadsheets
  • specimens and samples
  • survey responses
  • hard-copy documents and notebooks
  • photos, video recordings, audio recordings
  • interview transcripts
  • data files

Indigenous data

If your research project includes data involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, see this guidance from the Australian Research Data Commons.

Benefits of research data management

  • It guards against data loss and data integrity problems. If these problems occur, they can be difficult and time-consuming to resolve, and in some cases may compromise the success of the project. Prevention is better than cure -- careful planning will help your research project run smoothly.
  • Standardised names for files and folders ensure that the research team can easily access the right data at the right time, now and into the future. No need for guessing games if someone leaves or joins the research team. 
  • Secure storage practices help protect the privacy of participants and sensitive health data.
  • Most funding agencies and ethics committees will require researchers to submit a Data Management Plan (DMP) as part of their application. Creating a DMP will also help you to adequately answer data-related questions on ethics applications.

Data Management Plans (DMPs)

"...a living document for a research project, which outlines data creation, data policies, access and ownership rules, management practices, management facilities and equipment, and who will be responsible for what." -- (Australian Research Data Commons, n.d.)

Every research project should have a DMP, regardless of the project's complexity or scale. There are DMP templates and examples available to help you compile your own -- click through to the next two tabs in this box for links.

Requirements for DMPs

The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2018) includes reference to data management requirements. The accompanying guide, Management of Data and Information in Research (2019), provides further details about DMPs under section 3, Responsibilities of Researchers.

"A data management plan should be developed as early as possible in the research process and should include, but not be limited to, details regarding:

- physical, network, system security and any other technological security measures
- policies and procedures
- contractual and licensing arrangements and confidentiality agreements
- training for members of the project team and others, as appropriate
- the form in which the data or information will be stored
- the purposes for which the data or information will be used and/or disclosed
- the conditions under which access to the data or information may be granted to others, and
- what information from the data management plan, if any, needs to be communicated to potential participants." (p. 5)

National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council and Universities Australia. (2019). Management of data and information in research: A guide supporting the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.

Monash Health requirements

Research undertaken at Monash Health must comply with Monash Health policies, procedures, and guidelines. Ensure that your DMP meets the requirements of relevant procedures such as the Data Storage, Retention, Privacy and Confidentiality in Research Procedure, which specifies minimum retention periods for different types of research data. You can access this procedure and others via PROMPT.  

Online templates

Note: Double-check that your completed DMP meets Monash Health requirements, e.g. regarding data retention periods and appropriate data storage options. See the previous tab in this box for more information.

  • MCRI DMP template
    • This comprehensive DMP template from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) has instructions in grey text to help you complete each section. Download the template as a fillable Word document by clicking the download (arrow) icon at the bottom left.
  • DMPTool (USA)
    • A free online application designed for building data management plans, aligned with specific USA funding agencies. It takes you through the various steps in creating a DMP, including a template. Create an individual account using your email address.
  • Research Data Planning Checklist
    • Monash University's fillable PDF template. Note: Google Drive is not considered an appropriate storage platform at Monash Health.


How-to guides

Examples of data management plans (DMPs) are linked below.



Johns Hopkins Libraries

The Johns Hopkins' Data Services team have developed this DMPTool module, which teaches you how to use their DMPTool to prepare a data management plan. The module is quick and free to access.


Introduction to Data Management Plans -- prepared by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Edinburgh -- is a free online lesson comprised of the following videos:

  • Introduction to Data Management Plans - 5 mins
  • Funding Agency Requirements - 2 mins
  • Data Management Plan Content - 6 mins
  • Data Management Planning Tools - 2 mins

DataONE slideshow

Click through the slides below for more information on developing a data management plan. 

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