Toolkit - data organisation and storage

Labeling and anonymising the information you have collected in a consistent way will also make it much easier for you to analyse and report on it further down the line.

Storing your data

  • Make sure that your data is stored securely where only you and your research colleagues have access to it – especially if it has not yet been anonymised.
  • Don’t leave data on memory sticks or raw data such as written surveys on your desk where other people could see it. It should be kept in a locked drawer or file or password protected computer.
  • You may have agreed to delete your data after a certain amount of time – don’t forget to do this. Put in place something that will ensure that this is done, especially if you change jobs or move organisation.
  • Remember that your consent forms may contain personal information such as name, address and school. These should also be stored securely (especially if you are working with children or other vulnerable people).

UK Data Archive: storing data

UK Data Archive: deleting data

Anonymising your data

So that your report can be shared it’s important that you change the names of your research participants so that they are anonymous. This is part of maintaining research ethics, and upholding your consent form agreement. Data protection is also a legal requirement.

You could use a letter and number code for each person e.g. for a school group you might have T01, T02 (for teachers) and S01, S02 (for students).

Information Commissioner’s Office: Data Protection Act principals

University of Leicester: the importance of research ethics

Labelling data

It can save you time later on if you label all the data you collect consistently and clearly when you collect it:

  • give each bit of data (e.g. an interview – a video – a drawing) a unique name
  • include the date so that you can compare data collected at the same time, or see change/consistency over time
  • include the person involved e.g. who is being interviewed (this should be their code rather than their real name)
  • include the type of data that it is e.g. video observation, so that you can compare research methods
  • include the activity so that you can easily search through your data.

Example: you took a video of Sue and Bob planting a tree on 18 June 2013. If Sue = P1 and Bob = P2, the video might be labelled: 18June13_P1+P2_treeplant_video

UK Data Archive: file names

Collating and sorting your data

If your evidence is inputted into a spreadsheet it will be easier to analyse in the long-run. This is because you can filter data by row or column according to date, activity, indicator etc. depending on how you set up the spreadsheet columns.

Data analysis spreadsheet example (xls)


You may not necessarily need to transcribe video and audio in order to analyse it and site it in your report/findings:

  • you may need to describe what’s happening in a video
  • if you have interviewed someone and recorded the audio you could listen to it and transcribe only the pertinent examples as you are analysing it, rather than transcribing the whole thing
  • if you are able to (depending on your ethical consent) and want to share your raw data with others, you will need to transcribe video/audio.

Backing up data

Don’t forget to back up files or you may lose everything – but remember any back-ups should also be secure.

Data Archive: backing-up data