A quick overview of research data in the humanities

Haley Eckel
Tuesday 18 April 2023

This is the first in a trio of posts about research data in the humanities.

I. What is research data in the humanities?

              When it comes to research data in the humanities, what ‘counts’ as data can be confusing.  Bibliographies, annotations, archival notes, primary and secondary sources, stemmas, digitised items, finding aids, text corpora, critical apparatus, thematic research collections, focus group notes, interview coding, images, critical editions: these are just a few examples of data in the humanities. Since the definition can be project-specific, it’s a good idea to check with your funders or the Research Data Management (RDM) team if you’re not sure which elements of your project would be considered data. 

II. Why do I care?

              If you do have data, managing that data as a humanities researcher is an increasingly relevant question. Whether you’re from a discipline that has traditionally produced less data, like philosophy, English, or theology, or from a disciplines like international relations or management that more frequently produce data, data management skills can be helpful for your research. Data management planning can make it easier to organise, access, and reuse your resources, as well as helping you set up forward-thinking solutions to help you publish and protect you from loss of your hard work. Also, since most funders now require data management plans alongside funding applications, meeting publisher and funder requirements may require thinking and planning ahead. Besides, planning for data management is considered best practise.  

III. What should I do with it? 

              So you have your data–what next? If you’ve made it this far, you probably already have a method for managing and preserving your data after collection. In our following post we’ll offer a few tips and tricks for streamlining this process. This includes thinking about things like: 

  • Naming conventions 
  • Versioning 
  • Documentation 
  • Storage options & backups
  • Data publication & repositories 

The point is to maximise what you can get out of your data both now and in the future, all while keeping in line with funder and institutional requirements. 

 IV. My grant application requires a data management plan (DMP)–help!

              If you find yourself needing to write a data management plan and aren’t sure where to start, or if you have a plan but want someone to look over it, get in touch! The RDM team provide consultation services via email and Teams, as well as more generalised data management training through CEED. Courses can be booked through PDMS. To get in touch, email [email protected].

If this was helpful, stay tuned for our next post about tips and tricks for data management in the humanities!

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