Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Data Management Recommended Practices: Home

Recommended Practices in Data Management

The best practice is to have a plan. If these recommendations seem like too much, try to adopt one new good habit every month.

  • Writing a High Quality Data Management Plan
    Read your funder requirements carefully and address everything they ask you to. Then follow your plan.
  • File Management
    Have a consistent system and make sure everyone knows it. Don't use spaces or special characters in file names.
  • Creating and Using Spreadsheets or CSV Files
    Columns are for variables, rows are for records. Label your columns and use consistent terms between records. Don't use color or leave cells blank.  
  • Collaboration
    Have roles and responsibilities clearly defined up front. Make sure you save new versions of files when changes are made. 
  • Document Your Data Using Codebooks, ReadMe Files, and Data Dictionaries
    Give at least enough information that future you, a new lab member, or another researcher could make sense of your data. 
  • Security & Privacy
    Password protect and/or encrypt sensitive files. Follow Penn's guidelines for saving sensitive data on PennBox and visit SAS's pages on sensitive data and encryption.
  • Data Sharing
    Share! And share your documentation so the data is useful. Repositories are the most effective way to share. Find an appropriate repository here or ask us!

  • Storing and Backingup Data
    Follow the 3-2-1 Rule: 3 copies of your data stored on 2 different types of media with 1 copy in an offsite location. (0 of these copies should be on a flash drive) Want to know more? Watch one of these videos from Explaining Computers or University of Wisconsin Milwaukee's Data Librarian
  • Archiving data for the long haul
    Use sustainable file formats whenever possible and migrate your data to new media every 3-5 years.

These pages offer some of the recommended practices for managing your data, but -of course- every project and study is different and some practices might not work best for you. Please ask us questions, attend workshops, or set up consultations to figure out how to do best by your data.

Join our Spot on Data monthly mailing list for updates and tips on data management. Sign up at

Also search Research DataQ for answers


Funding Agency Public Access Plans (

Funding Agency Public Access Plans (SPARC)

Links to School-specific guidance on data management

Additional Learning Opportunities

Assistant University Librarian for Research Data and Digital Scholarship