What are Research Data?

“Research data mean (digital) data which, depending on the subject context, are the subject of a research process, are generated during a research process or are its result.“[1]

This definition results in a discipline- and project-specific understanding of research data which can take on diverse forms depending on context:

  • interviews and their transcripts
  • audio and video files
  • text corpora
  • statistical surveys
  • systematic analysis of source material
  • transcripts of important sources
  • databases
  • numerical data in tables
  • working bibliographies
  • scripts/programmes
  • visualisations
  • network analyses
  • geodata, etc.

Seen in the light of research processes, these are work data, on the basis of which researchers either carry out their scientific projects or which arise from them. Storage and publication of a selection of these data serve to safeguard own research results, improve their transparency in the sense of academic best practice and facilitate subsequent use.

1. The following scientific essay examines menus on the basis of Pierre Bourdieu’s cultural theory. Thereby, a corpus published as a set of data is referenced.

  • essay:
    Jurafsky, Dan/Chahuneau, Victor/Routledge, Bryan R./Smith, Noah A.: “Linguistic Markers of Status in Food Culture: Bourdieu’s Distinction in a Menu Corpus.” In: Journal of Cultural Analytics (2016). DOI: 10.31235/osf.io/j9tga.
  • corresponding set of data:
    Jurafsky, Dan: “Linguistic Markers of Status in Food Culture: Bourdieu’s Distinction in a Menu Corpus” data and scripts. Harvard Dataverse (2016), V1. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/QMLCPD.

2. The following data paper describes a set of data related to archaeological excavations of skull bones:

  • Radović, Marija/Stefanović, Sofija/Edinborough, Kevan: “Cranial Age Assessment and Cranial Pathology from the Mesolithic-Neolithic Inhabitants of the Danube Gorges, Serbia.” In: Journal of Open Archaeology Data 4 (2015): p. e5. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/joad.aj

3. The following data paper describes a database of early Afro-American films:

  • Cifor, Marika/Girma, Hanna/Norman, Shanya/Posner, Miriam: “Early African-American Film Database, 1909–1930.” In: Journal of Open Humanities Data 4 (2018): p. 1. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/johd.7

Advantages of Planned Data Management

Planned data management is an important feature in the daily life of researchers, since it supports their work in a range of ways:

  • Systematic collecting, recording and storage of research data facilitates your own research and protects against data loss;
  • The publication of research data increases the visibility of one’s own research and accentuates one’s academic profile;[2]
  • The traceability and transparency of research performance is increased;
  • New collaborations and networks with other researchers can emerge;
  • Expert knowledge is preserved and facilitates new research;
  • Published research data can be used for secondary analysis with new research questions and methods or in combination of data from diverse sources;
  • Current research funding requirements will be met and the prospects for funding will increase.


[1] Kindling, Maxi/Schirmbacher, Peter: „Die digitale Forschungswelt“ als Gegenstand der Forschung. In: Information – Wissenschaft & Praxis 64 (2013) Nr. 2-3, S. 127-136. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/iwp-2013-0017

[2] Vgl. zum Zitationsvorteil https://www.forschungsdaten.org/index.php/Data_citation#Litertaur_zum_Zitationsvorteil_durch_.22data_sharing.22, am 19.11.2019. — Piwowar, Heather/Vision, Todd J.: Data Reuse and the Open Data Citation Advantage. In: PeerJ PrePrints 175 (2013). DOI: https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.175

Picture Credit

Header Research Data: „Mraconia Church in the Small Kazan Danube on Romania Serbia Border” © Gary Bembridge via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Research Data Pyramid: © BSB/A. Štanzel, CC BY 4.0 | Manage Research Data: own adaptation © Gaelen Pinnock (http://scarletstudio.net/), CC BY 4.0 | Publish Research Data: own adaptation © Gaelen Pinnock (http://scarletstudio.net/), CC BY 4.0 | Use Research Data: own adaptation © Gaelen Pinnock (http://scarletstudio.net/), CC BY 4.0 |