Data Literacy for Researchers

An introductory guide to finding, analyzing, and communicating data in the research process.

Related Research Guides

Research Writing & Presentation

Research writing has specific conventions regarding paper structure and format since a lot of research communication often relies on experimentation or data analysis.

Journals that publish scientific resources often have sections outlining "Instructions for Authors" that provide information about the length of the sections, formatting requirements, citation style, figure sizes, and other requirements for publishing. Here are some resources for learning more:

There are two primary methods for research presentation:

Research Talks are common ways to present research. These are often part of seminar series, conferences, journal clubs and more. Presentations usually have some sort of visual medium used to present content, such as a slideshow.

Key things to consider:

  • Begin with an outline of what listeners will expect to hear during the presentation
  • Provide enough context for the work that is being presented at the beginning
  • Avoid including extraneous or contradictory information unless it is relevant
  • Write key points as the title for every slide. Be direct. You want viewers to know what your main point is without needing to listening to you.
  • Summarize your key points and findings after each section, or before the conclusion of the talk.

Poster presentations are a widely used method in the academic community to visually and concisely summarize research. Poster presentations are often part of larger events like symposiums or conferences to showcase work that is being done that is at various stages of completion. 

Key things to consider:

  • Posters are meant to be visual presentations that can be interpreted with or without the speaker. 
  • Include important context or visuals that help the reader visualize what is being described in the poster.
  • Use visuals or graphics to depict key results, showcase findings or show relationships between things
  • Include enough text so that someone looking at the poster can understand what is being presented.

Resources for learning more:

Citing is an important part of ethical research communication. Data citation is similar to publication citation in that there are similar key components that should be included, but there is no one single standard method for citing data. Publishers and data repositories often provide their own guidelines for citation which should be carefully reviewed and followed.

Here are some resources regarding citation:

Publishing & Preservation

Research is often published in peer-reviewed journals. This involves a submission process, a peer-review process, and given acceptance of the article, a publishing agreement.

Peer Review Process

The Peer Review Process. Source: UMich Scholarly Publishing Guide

Preservation is important for long-term ethical communication of your research. This includes sharing your data and ensuring that data is continually accessible long after you have finished and published your research. This is often a prerequisite to funding and publishing, as it is required by major funding agencies, both government and philanthropic, as well as many journal publishers. Typically sharing your data means depositing your data into a repository, and ideally it would be unencrypted, uncompressed, and in a commonly used open file format. 

Established repositories allow for easier sharing and maintenance of data, often having built-in mechanisms to maintain data integrity along with metrics for researchers to monitor reuse of their data. They further help with discoverability, particularly through issuing permanent identifier links like Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) which are often included in journal citations. Specialized data repositories also exist for protected data, where researchers can privately and securely store sensitive data as well as control access to it.


When publishing research, there are certain principles we must keep in mind given our increasing reliance on technology when dealing with data: Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reuse (FAIR).

As a part of research communication, we must also consider who can access our research and how. Where you publish your work determines the primary audience your work is exposed to, which depends on things like whether there's a pay wall or not. Open access is a research publishing movement that allows readers to access published research for free, often further allowing the free usage, reproduction, and distribution of the research as well.