Penn State Data Management Plan Tutorial

1.5 Tools or Software to Interpret and Manipulate Data

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In addition to describing data types, formats, and quantity, provide a statement about any tools you will use in order to produce, process, and/or analyze the data. Include any tools that the project is likely to leverage for visualization or display of the data. Also, mention any additional materials that will be provided in order to help others who are interested in using your data to understand them.

It is always helpful to describe the software and version used to record your data, if in digital form. In the video below, Ben Goldman describes some of the challenges digital archivists face related to dealing with obsolete software formats.


Link to YouTube video.

Examples of tools and software used to interpret and manipulate data:

  • Spreadsheet software such as Excel
  • Visualization software
  • Mapping software such as ArcGIS
  • Statistical programs such as SAS, SPSS and Minitab
  • Survey software such as REDCap, ....
  • Hardware for data capture such as digital cameras, scanners, telescopes...
  • Measurement devices such as calorimeters, gauges, scales, thermometers, ...

For any of these tools, it is useful to record the version or model. For example, what software version did you use? What model of scanner? What resolution was used? Other supporting information that might help understand how the data was collected or encoded is useful. For example, knowing that the instrument reported data in metric units, to a particular accuracy, etc. is particularly helpful information for future users of your data. Other types of useful data include codebooks and calibration information.

Text giving details on a special collections scanning project.
Details on scanning methods for a Special Collections digitization project.
Click to expand to provide more information

At Chicago, bound books and pamphlets were scanned using both Epson Expression 1640XL flatbed scanners and a Minolta PS 3000 with a grayscale board. Books from the General Collection and pamphlets that opened flat were scanned on the flatbed scanners at 8-bit grayscale at 300 dpi or 400 dpi (depending on the quality and size of the printed text) using Lasersoft Silverfast 5 and saved as uncompressed TIFF files. Image files were cropped at the page edge and edited using Adobe Photoshop 5.5.

In order to minimize stress to fragile bindings during scanning, Special Collections bound books were scanned face-up on the Minolta PS 3000 at 8-bit grayscale 400 dpi and saved as high-quality JPEG files using ISE-Scan software. The option to save these files as uncompressed TIFF files in grayscale was not available. It was somewhat difficult to get good-quality scans of some of the texts scanned on the Minolta, due to faint ink, waviness of the paper in the original, or tight bindings, all of which caused a blurry scan and necessitated re-scanning. Image files were cropped at the page edge and edited in Adobe Photoshop.

At the Filson Historical Society, all books and pamphlets were scanned on an Epson Expression 836XL flatbed scanner at 8-bit grayscale 300 dpi, except for color plates and title pages from rare or significant texts, which were scanned in 24-bit color. All files were saved as uncompressed TIFF files and edited in Adobe Photoshop.