When publishing research, it is important to make documentation available so that readers can understand the details of the research design that the work reports. This includes all of the technical details and decisions that could influence how the findings are read or understood. Usually, this will involve producing a document along the lines of a methodological note or appendix. That document will describe how a given study was designed and how the design was carried out. The level of detail is in such a document should be relatively high. This page will describe some common approaches to compiling this kind of material and retaining the needed information in an organized fashion throughout the life of a research project.
- Research documentation provides the context to understanding the results of a given research output.
- There is no standard form for this documentation, and its location and format will depend on the type of research output produced.
- For academic materials, this documentation often takes the form of a structured methodological appendix.
- For policy outputs or online products, it may be appropriate to include an informative
READMEwebpage or document.
- The most important process for preparing this documentation will be retaining and organizing the needed information throughout the life of the project, so that the team will not have to search through communications or data archives for small details at publication time.
What to include in research documentation
Research documentation should include all the information that is needed to understand the underlying design for the research output. This can include descriptions of:
- Populations of interest that informed the study
- Methods of sampling or other sources of data about selecting the units of observation that were actually included in the study
- Field work, including data collection or experimental manipulation, such as study protocols and monitoring or quality assurance information
- Statistical approaches such as definitions of key constructed indicators, corrections or adjustments to data, and precise definitions of estimators and estimation procedures
- Data completeness, including non-observed units or quantities that were planned or "tracking" information