Among the key skills required to write your assignments or longer pieces of work such as dissertations are the abilities to select, collect, organise and use information and data. The most common forms of information and data are short text extracts, facts and figures that you might include in your own work - with appropriate citation references, of course. Other types of data include diagrams, maps, illustrations, interviews, experimental results and photos as well as music scores, audio recordings, video and film. Don’t forget, if people are involved, then permissions, confidentiality and anonymising procedures are all important
You will need to decide how you will manage the data you collect and how you are going to analyse and present the results. This is a matter of personal preference provided you are consistent and organised.
If you store your data on a PC, make back-up copies of your files at the end of each work session. You should also make back-up copies of your dissertation. It is also a good idea to print out your work occasionally. Notes and ideas can be scribbled on this printout to share with your supervisor and it can be referred to while typing new material.
Keep a record of all the books, articles and other sources you have used for your work in a form that works for you. This can be by typing into a Word document directly on to a PC or laptop; recording notes on your mobile device, or you might use portable, handwritten index cards which you can copy out later onto your PC.
In your reference list it is good practice to add the reference citation for each entry in the correct format so that you can simply copy-and-paste them into your dissertation's bibliography. See our Citing and Referencing guide for further information and guidance on referencing styles and bibliographic software.
If your work requires you to analyse numerical (quantitative) data you will need to learn how to handle statistics. Microsoft Excel is a good choice for simple analyses, but other more sophisticated software packages will also help you manage your data. Here are some online tutorials that will help you get started:
For more helpful information on collecting data and data analysis you may wish to refer to the Guide to Research Methods self-study module designed specifically for University of Southampton students.
Further information on funder guidance, and good practice on working with, sharing and storing data can also be found in our Research Data Management guide.
Analyse and present numerical data by the University of Leicester.
Prepare and manage your data by the UK Data Service.
Research Data Management a set of guides produced by the University of Southampton Library.
Data Management Plan template created by the University of Southampton for new PhD students.