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Research data interviews are conducted to:

  • audit data holdings and collections
  • collect information about researcher and institutional data storage requirements
  • discover current data management practices
  • create records to showcase institutional research data through Research Data Australia.

Data interview methodologies

Data interviews are conducted for various reasons and are themselves a primary data collection method. Different methodologies need to be applied depending on the purpose of the interview.

Collecting researchers' requirements and learning about data management practices can be done with semi-structured interviews. This is a flexible and non-intrusive approach that can obtain relevant information and assist with researcher engagement. It allows the interviewer to explore how data management occurs in ways relevant to the particular researcher and lets the researcher express their opinions. Appendix 1 (DOCX, 0.13 MB) contains a variety of questions organized in the context of a generic "research life-cycle".

When collecting information required for the manual creation of metadata records, structured interviews with questions that map directly to the required elements may be used. Examples of questionnaires used to populate Research Data Australia party and collection records can be found in Appendix 2 (DOCX, 0.13 MB).

A sample data interview methodology

This sample methodology is not prescriptive but intended as a starting point. It is a mixed three-stage process methodology to both increase the amount of content in Research Data Australia as well as engaging with research communities by understanding their behaviours and needs.

Stage 1 - Plan interviews


Define clearly:

  • the aim and scope of the interviews
  • how interviewees are going to be identified and contacted
  • how the interviews will be organised
  • the interview questions
  • how the interview information will be captured and analysed.

Check your institutional policies to see if you will need ethics clearance (permission to publish a metadata record about the existence of data, and sometimes even the data itself, can be obtained retrospectively). Think carefully about the amount of time you have and how many questions you will have time to ask. You may need to conduct a second more formal interview if you wish to obtain enough information to populate Research Data Australia records.


  1. Identify a representative cross-section of researchers across disciplines and roles.
  2. Initially use a semi-structured interview with open-ended questions; see Appendix 1 (DOCX, 0.13 MB) for examples of a variety of questions.
  3. If gathering information for Research Data Australia, work with whoever will be creating the records so you know what elements you have to obtain. Appendix 2 (DOCX, 0.13 MB) has examples of questions that may be used to capture the required elements.


  • customised data interview methodology

Stage 2 - Conduct interviews


Interview researchers and collect and analyse information about:

  • their data awareness and practices
  • data collections they are involved with
  • needs for services and infrastructure, etc.

You may find that having two "interviewers" at each session is helpful to ensure that you capture everything, and to expand your pool of potential interviewers for the future.


  1. Conduct face to face interviews
  2. Request permission to record the interview and take notes
  3. Take the time to learn about the interviewee's specific research before the interview


  • information on institutional research data management practices and needs
  • data management use cases/scenarios to help communicating current practice and challenges
  • a number of research data collections identified
  • research groups or researchers who are willing to engage further identified.

Stage 3 - Create Research Data Australia records


Gather sufficient information to create formal RIF-CS records in Research Data Australia about datasets discovered via the original interviews. You may need to conduct a more formally structured second interview to collect the required information for good record creation.


  1. Use a structured questionnaire. See Appendix 2 (DOCX, 0.13 MB) for examples of questions for RIF-CS party and collection records.
  2. Talk to the person at your institution who will be creating the records or doing the RIF-CS crosswalk prior to interviewing researchers.
  3. Pre-populate as much of the questionnaire information as possible before the interview.


  • a collection of manually crafted RIF-CS records for Research Data Australia.

Further Information




*The sample questionnaires have been complied from the following institutions' research data interviews: Griffith University, University of Queensland, Edith Cowan University, University of Adelaide, ANSTO & the Synchrotron and University of Oxford.