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Data 101: Data Management Plans

In this LibGuide, we introduce you to the wide world of data, including data types (qualitative, quantitative, ethnographic, geospatial, etc.), finding data, visualizing data, and managing data.

What are Data Management Plans?

Data management plans (also called DMPs) are written documents that describe how research data will be organized throughout a project, from initial planning stages, to collecting/generating data, to analysis, and finally to storing the data and publishing the research. Creating a data management plan before your project starts is a great way to help ensure that your research data will stay organized, accessible, and understandable to yourself and all members of your research team. While we recommend creating data management plans for all projects, they are especially important if you are applying for a grant from a funding agency, many of which require data management plans at the time of your grant proposal submission!

Ingredients of a Good Data Management Plan

The following questions should be addressed in your data management plan in order to provide a holistic, yet detailed overview of how you will engage with data in your research project. If you are writing your data management plan for a grant funding proposal, several agencies such as the NSF and NIH limit your plan to two pages, so allocate your space strategically!

  • What data will be generated in this project?
  • Who will be responsible for the data at each stage?
  • How will datasets need to be connected?
  • What formats will be used (Excel, MySQL, jpg, etc.)?
  • What information about the data will need to be captured so that others can understand it?
  • Where should the data be stored and who should have access to it?
  • How should the data be organized and named?
  • How will the data be published or archived at the end of the project?

Your DMP Should Evolve, Just Like Pokémon!

Even though we generally create data management plans at the start of our research, they are living documents! As your project grows and progresses, you may find yourself engaging with the data in a different way, or trying a new analysis. As these changes occur, it's a great practice to update your data management plan to reflect those changes. Much in the way that Pokémon grow and evolve as they spend more time with their trainer and get more experience, your data management plan should also evolve! 


An image showing the Pokemon Squirtle, a small, blue, turtle-like creature, evolving into Blastoise, a large turtle with cannons on its back.

DMPTool: Build your Data Management Plan



DMPTool is an online platform providing ready-to-use templates for creating data management plans to be used in grant submissions for funding agencies, including the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, the Department of Defense, and many more. Visit and sign in with your CMU credentials to get started! We also offer several sample DMPs, created by our Research Data Services team, which you are free to use as guides for your data management plans. You can view these under "My Dashboard" and scroll towards the bottom of the page to the section titled "Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Plans." 

Open Knowledge Librarian

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Emily Bongiovanni

Credits and Acknowledgements

Banner image courtesy of Med Badr Chemmaoui on Unsplash, found here: Design made in Canva.