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Research Data Management

This guide provides best practices and resources for managing your research data for any discipline.

File Organization

File Organization is a task that you should take care of early in any research project.  It is important to be clear and consistent.  Choices you make will often be determined by the type of research that you do.  Use the same file organization for both your active data and your backup data. Consider the following:

  • Directory Structure
  • File Structure
  • File Naming Conventions
  • File Formats
  • File Version Control

File Naming Conventions

File Naming is often taken for granted.  Best practice is that the names are descriptive - they reflect the content of the file.  Be consistent - use the same format for all of the files in a project, including data set files and zip or tar files. Some suggested attributes to include: 

  • unique identifier or project name/acronym
  • PI
  • location/spatial coordinates
  • year of study
  • data type
  • version number
  • file type

Use no more than 32 characters.  Use only numbers, letters, and underscores.  Do not use special characters, dashes, spaces, or multiple dots or stops. Avoid using common terms ('data', 'sample', 'final', or 'revision').  Use consistent case - all lower case, or all UPPER CASE, or Lower Case. Dates should be in a standard format - YYYYMMDD, which will allow them to sort chronologically.    

Sequential numbering should allow for growth, and include leading zeros.  Do you have 100 files?  Numbering should run from 001 to 100.  A thousand?  Start your numbers at 0001. 

Already have a lot of data collected and want or need to rename the files?  Consider using one of these tools: