How to Manage Your Data

Step 1. Contact your local Data Service and/or Librarian

Find out what tools and services are available at your institution. Portage maintains a national list of institutional data management contacts.

Step 2. Sign up for an account on the DMP Assistant

A Data Management Plan (DMP) is a formal document that describes how data are handled during and after a research project. The DMP Assistant is a freely available  online bilingual tool that helps you create a data management plan by answering questions related to:

Data Collection

Consider the formats and types of data you will generate while doing your research. Organizing your files with consistent and descriptive names can make your data easier to understand, share, and preserve. 

Key questions in the DMP Assistant:

  • What types of data will you collect, create, link to, acquire and/or record?
  • What file formats will your data be collected in? Will these formats allow for data re-use, sharing and long-term access to the data?
  • What conventions and procedures will you use to structure, name and version-control your files to help you and others better understand how your data are organized?

Documentation and Metadata

Think about the documentation needed for others to understand your data. Your local Data Librarian or Portage can help identify standards and tools that will facilitate this process.

Current questions in DMP Assistant:

  • What documentation will be needed for the data to be read and interpreted correctly in the future?
  • How will you make sure that documentation is created or captured consistently throughout your project?
  • If you are using a metadata standard and/or tools to document and describe your data, please list here.

Storage and Backup

Anticipate your data storage needs, data backup strategies, and how data will be accessed and modified throughout the project.

Current questions in DMP Assistant:

  • What are the anticipated storage requirements for your project, in terms of storage space (in megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes, etc.) and the length of time you will be storing it?
  • How and where will your data be stored and backed up during your research project?
  • How will the research team and other collaborators access, modify, and contribute data throughout the project?


Data preservation ensures datasets can be accessed and understood over time and takes into consideration changes in technology. Consider open (non-proprietary) file formats, good documentation, and ensuring research subjects’ privacy (if applicable).

Current questions in DMP Assistant:

  • Where will you deposit your data for long-term preservation and access at the end of your research project?
  • Indicate how you will ensure that your data are preservation ready. Consider preservation-friendly file formats, ensuring file integrity, anonymization and de-identification, inclusion of supporting documentation.

Sharing and Reuse

Think about what data you will be sharing (e.g., ‘raw’ data, or final data that has been processed and analyzed). If you share your data, consider the type of end-user license you will apply and how you will ensure others know your data exists.

Current questions in DMP Assistant:

  • What data will you be sharing and in what form? (e.g., raw, processed, analyzed, final).
  • Have you considered what type of end-user license to include with your data?
  • What steps will be taken to help the research community know that your data exists?

Responsibilities and Resources

A key part of ensuring ongoing data security and management is identifying who has access and who is responsible for your research data. Take into account the resources and associated costs needed to manage your data.

Current questions in DMP Assistant:

  • Identify who will be responsible for managing this project’s data during and after the project and the major data management tasks for which they will be responsible.
  • How will responsibilities for managing data activities be handled if substantive changes happen in the personnel overseeing the project’s data, including a change of Principal Investigator?
  • What resources will you require to implement your data management plan? What do you estimate the overall cost for data management to be?

Ethics and Legal Compliance

Sensitive data requires careful consideration with regard to storage and management. All legal, ethical, and intellectual property matters must be addressed and described.

 Current questions in DMP Assistant:

  • If your research project includes sensitive data, how will you ensure that it is securely managed and accessible only to approved members of the project?
  • If applicable, what strategies will you undertake to address secondary uses of sensitive data?
  • How will you manage legal, ethical, and intellectual property issues?

Step 3. Start planning!

Start working with the DMP Assistant. Once you start a data management plan, it can be saved and completed later. DMPs can be exported (in full or part) to meet the needs of ethics boards and/or research administrators. The downloaded DMP can be customized to suit different audiences.