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Open Access to (research) data - for students: What can be defined as research data

What can be defined as research data

Research data can be divided into primary material and data. 

Primary material is any material (e.g. biological material, notes, interviews, texts and literature, digital raw data, recordings, etc.) that forms the basis of the research. 
Data are detailed records of the primary materials that comprise the basis for the analysis that generates the results.

Source: Ministry of Higher Education and Science (2014) Danish Code of Conduct for Research Integrity.


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Research data can be

  • Quantitative
  • Qualitative
  • Videos 
  • Pictures
  • Sound recordings
  • and more...

Provenance of research data

  • Observational data – real time, unique and irreplaceable
  • Experimental data – data from lab equipment, often reproducible
  • Models or simulation – data generated from test models
  • Derived or compiled data – processing or combining ‘raw data’ 
  • Reference or canonical data – published or curated data


  • Observational: Survey data, field recordings, sample data.
  • Experimental: Gene sequences, chromatograms, magnetic field data.
  • Models or simulation: Climate models, economic models.
  • Derived or compiled: Text and data mining, compiled databases, 3D models.
  • Reference or canonical: Gene sequence databanks, collection of letters or archive of historical images.

Be critical of your sources


Who generated the data? 

With what objective is the data generated? Does it tell you about the context in which the data should be situated?

What methods, procedures or tools were used in the data collection or data generation? 

Is there a data collection protocol, interview manual or other information that describes in detail the creation of this data?

How are data modified, adjusted, annotated, and are these changes documented?

Where did you find the data and how trustworthy is that source?

Which license conditions are in place to use the data?