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Research Toolkit

Creating a research database

Creating a research database

Research data will often be stored as an Excel file. The databases which you create are likely to be used in the future by other academics, so they need to be clear and accurate .


  • What information are you permitted to record and how much do you need to record? (data should be minimised)
  • Check that you are compliant with your University’s policies on data management and information governance.
  • How will you anonymise or link-anonymise data? If you are link-anonymising data, where will the link be stored and who will have access to it?
  • Avoid numbers/letters which resemble one another e.g. I and 1. Do not embed personal identifiable information (e.g. date of birth, NHS number) within the link code.
  • Where will you save/store your database? Speak to your IT department to find a secure, regularly backed up, recoverable location.
  • Who will be able to access the database? Speak to your IT department as they may be able to create a folder on a University server with access restricted to specified individuals.
  • Will you lock your Excel spreadsheet?
  • How will you minimise errors when entering information into the database? E.g.

  • Pilot your database before using it properly.
  • A useful article on the topic is:

    • How to design and use a research database. Simon S Cross, Ian R Palmer, Timothy J Stephenson. Diagnostic Histopathology, April 2018, Volume 24:4.