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What is research data?

Research data are the evidence that underpins the answer to your research question and can support the findings or outputs of your research. Research data takes many different forms. They may include for example, statistics, digital images, sound recordings, films, transcripts of interviews, survey data, artworks, published texts or manuscripts, or fieldwork observations. The term 'data' is more familiar to researchers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), but any outputs from research could be considered data. For example, Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) researchers might create data in the form of presentations, spreadsheets, documents, images, works of art, or musical scores. The Research Data Management Team in the University Library aim to help you plan, create, organise, share, and look after your research materials, whatever form they take. For more information about the Research data Management Team, visit their website.


Data Management Plans

Research Data Management is a complex issue, but if done correctly from the start, could save you a lot of time and hassle when you are writing up your thesis. We advise all students to consider data management as early as possible and create a Data Management Plan (DMP). The Research Data Management Team offer help in creating your DMP and can offer advice and training on how to do this. There are some departments that have joined a pilot project to include Data Management Plans in the registration reviews of PhD students. As part of the pilot, students are asked to complete a brief Data Management Plan (DMP) and supervisors and assessors ensure that the student has thought about all the issues and their responses are reasonable. If your department is taking part in the pilot or would like to, see the Data Management Plans for Pilot for Cambridge PhD Students page. The Research Data Management Team will provide support for any students, supervisors or assessors that are in need.


Submitting your digital thesis and depositing your data

If you have created data that is connected to your thesis and the data is in a format separate to the thesis file itself, we recommend that you deposit it in the data repository and make it open access to improve discoverability. We will accept data that either does not contain third party copyright, or contains third party copyright that has been cleared and is data of the following types:

  •     computer code written by the researcher
  •     software written by the researcher
  •     statistical data
  •     raw data from experiments

If you have created a research output which is not one of those listed above, please contact us on the address and we will advise whether you should deposit this with your thesis, or separately in the data repository. If you are ready to deposit your data in the data repository, please do so via symplectic elements. More information on how to deposit can be found on the Research Data Management pages. If you wish to cite your data in your thesis, we can arranged for placeholder DOIs to be created in the data repository before your thesis is submitted. For further information, please email: 


Third party copyright in your data

For an explanation of what is third party copyright, please see the OSC third party copyright page. If your data is based on, or contains third party copyright you will need to obtain clearance to make your data open access in the data repository. It is possible to apply a 12 month embargo to datasets while clearance is obtained if you need extra time to do this. However, if it is not possible to clear the third party copyrighted material, it is not possible to deposit your data in the data repository. In these cases, it might be preferable to deposit your data with your thesis instead, under controlled access, but this can be complicated if you wish to deposit the thesis itself under a different access level. Please email with any queries and we can advise on the best solution.