Research data

    Main points

What a researcher considers to be 'research data' depends on the meaning of this data in the research process. This varies for each scientific discipline. 

Research data comes in a variety of formats that can be read with various types of software. The accordion below shows a few definitions of research data.  



Research data means data in the form of facts, observations, images, computer program results, recordings, measurements or experiences on which an argument, theory, test or hypothesis, or another research output is based. Data may be numerical, descriptive, visual or tactile. It may be raw, cleaned or processed, and may be held in any format or media.(1)

Research data is defined as recorded factual material commonly retained by and accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings.(2)

Research data: Collected, observed or created for the purpose of analysis to produce and validate original research results.(3)

Research data is the material underpinning a research assertion.(4)

University of Southampton staff have drafted a document(5) in which they have defined five different ways to look at research data: 

  • The way the data is collected.
    • By experimenting, simulations, observations, derived data, reference data.
  • The data forms.
    • For example text documents, spreadsheets, lab journals, logs, questionnaires, software code, transcripts, code books, audio and video recordings, photos, samples, slides, artefacts, models, scripts, databases, metadata, etc.
  • The formats for electronic storage of the research data.
  • The size (volume) of the data files.
  • The research lifecycle phase the data is in.


This exercise is from the RDM Roseactivity sheet 5.2.2. It is an optional exercise that can be done to get a better understanding of the term research data.   

Case studies

On page 6-22 of Scott et al. (2016) you will find five case studies about research data in the following fields: 

  1. medical research
  2. materials science
  3. aerodynamics
  4. chemistry
  5. archaeology

Select one case study to examine in detail and answer the following two questions:

  • Do you recognize the five ways to look at research data? How?
  • Identify a number of possible issues researchers have (or could have) when they want to store, manage, archive and share their research data. 

Feel free to post your findings on the forum.

   Sources and additional reading

Click to open/close


  1. Queensland University of Technology. (2013). Management of Research data. Retrieved from
  2. EPSRC, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Scope. Retrieved from
  3. Crossley, J.; Stewart, J. (2013). Managing research data. Retrieved from
  4. University of Sheffield. (2013, September 2). Research data management: what is research data? Retrieved from
  5. Scott, M. (2016). Introducing Research Data, University of Southampton. 4th ed. Retrieved from

Additional reading 

  Your additions

Do you want to comment on this section? Or add another definition of research data or complementary source? Please let us know by posting a comment.