Text and photo: Kaisa Järvelä

Tool Developed by Students Facilitates Collecting Textual Data

With the help of Penna web application an individual researcher can easily collect personal accounts or narratives from research subjects in the future. The process requires no technical know-how. The purpose of the tool is to help researchers who are planning on depositing their data at the FSD.

Finnish researchers like to use data collected through writing competitions. However, collecting and managing large amounts of data has been challenging for individual researchers in the past. Most writing competition data archived at the FSD have been collected by large organisations such as the Finnish Literature Society.


Penna was developed by University of Tampere students Jukka Ala-Fossi, Sirkku Seitamäki, Enna Raerinne, Valtteri Simola, and Juho Sipola as well as Juho Torkkeli and Timo Tuulio. The last two are not pictured here.

Collecting and archiving textual data is soon going to become a lot easier thanks to the FSD’s new data collection tool, Penna. If everything goes according to plan, the tool created by University of Tampere students will be available for users after the summer holidays.

Technical implementation to be taken care of by the FSD

—We noticed that writing competition data archived at the FSD are used quite often, but we rarely receive data from individual researchers, explains Information Services Specialist Jarkko Päivärinta, who is in charge of qualitative data curation at the FSD.

—The aim of Penna is to lower the threshold for gathering and storing textual data data.

In the future, a researcher planning on collecting and storing textual data can contact the FSD directly and discuss with our User Services. Together they can decide on the background variables to be gathered from the participants. The researcher can also deliver the invitation letter directly to the FSD.

The FSD staff creates an online form where research participants can submit their texts. The link is then given to the researcher, who can share it with the participants. After the participants have submitted their texts, the FSD will provide the researcher with the complete data. Thus, the only things left for the researcher to do are preparing the invitation letter to participants, and sharing the link through their chosen channels.

Storing textual data in an easier and more straightforward way

In addition to the collection process, Penna also helps with archiving the data. The background variable section in the online form will always include a question about consent. Before, some great datasets could not be archived for reuse because the researcher forgot to ask the research participants’ consent for archiving the data.

The background variables section of the online form will be constructed in such a way that using the data is as easy as possible for potential reusers.

Furthermore, the work of FSD employees who process data will be more straightforward in the future. In the past, researchers submitted data in many different formats, and the data descriptions could be inadequate in a number of ways.

—Thanks to Penna, our data processing personnel can begin the normal archiving process straight away without going through complex pre-processing, says IT Services Manager Matti Heinonen.

Student project exceeded expectations

Both Heinonen and Päivärinta are satisfied that Penna was developed as a student project.

The cooperation between the FSD and computer science students at the University of Tampere worked even better than expected.

—We did not expect that the tool could be finished during just one student project, Päivärinta praises.

Last spring, the students of computer science planned and executed an overhaul of the FSD’s party agenda database POHTIVA. Similar cooperation projects with students will surely follow in the future.

What is Penna?

  • Penna is a data collection tool developed by students at the University of Tampere on an order from the FSD. It is used especially for collecting textual data.
  • The tool will most likely be available for users by the autumn 2017.
  • Penna’s user interface is open for all.
  • The front page of the tool will feature all open collections. If the researcher does not wish to share his collection in public, they can share the link only through channels they prefer.
  • The FSD takes care of the technical implementation of data collection and management on behalf of the researcher.
  • After data are collected the researcher receives the complete data directly from the FSD.
  • Data collected through Penna will be archived at the FSD according to consent obtained from the writers.
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