Finalise the data management plan. Making decisions and beginning your documentation activities now will assist you and team members throughout the data collection and analysis stages of your exercise, and make deposit for secondary access a much simpler and straightforward process.
Before fieldwork begins, you should consider and, if possible, make decisions on:
- File structure
How will the data be organised? What is the unit of analysis? Will there be one long data record or several smaller ones?
- Naming conventions
How will files and variables be named?
- Data integrity
How will data be converted to electronic form, and what checks will be in place to find invalid values, inconsistent responses, incomplete records, etc.?
- Dataset documentation
What will the dataset documentation look like and how will it be produced? What information will it contain? Investigate possibilities for standards based documentation creation (e.g. DDI).
- Variable construction
What variables will be constructed following the collection of the original data? How will these be documented?
- Project documentation
Throughout the project, decisions will be taken on issues of importance and relevance to both project members and future secondary users. How will these decisions be documented? How will information be recorded on field procedures, coding decisions, variable construction, and so on?
- Integration and software issues
Making decisions early on which software programs can and will be used throughout the project to accomplish these tasks will be crucial in keeping your data collection activities simpler and more reliable. If computer-assisted data collection is likely, this is particularly important.
The Managing Data section will provide further information about creating dataset and documentation.