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Research Data Management Resources

Why Organize?

Good management of data files allows you to efficiently identify, locate, and use your data. You can:

  • Manage large amounts of various data files.
  • Locate and browse for files easily. 
  • Distinguish different files and versions of files within a folder.
  • Prevent confusion when working on teams or sharing files. 
  • Prevent data loss by accidentally overwriting or deleting files.
  • Provide context for retrieval and storage of data. 

File management encompasses:

  • Structuring the hierarchical organization of file folders in a logical and clear way;
  • Planning for the syntax and vocabulary of individual file names;
  • Using agreed-upon conventions consistently.

File Management

Good habits for structuring folders and files

  • Consider all the types of files that you will handle during the course of the project.
  • Develop a nested folder structure that makes the most sense for your project or team’s retrieval needs (think about categories and granularity).
  • Name folders clearly, without special characters or floats, and avoid redundancy.
  • Use a standard folder structure for each project or subproject (including making empty folders for files not yet created)
  • Create a reference document that notes the purpose of different folders.

Good habits for file naming

A key to well-organized data is a consistent file naming convention. Filenames can communicate much about a data file in less than 25 characters.

A filename is the chief identifier for a data file. (MANTRA)

  • Keep the filename short (about 25 characters).
  • Use consistent elements, consistently.
  • Use standard formats for dates or times.
  • Avoid special characters, spaces, and case dependency.
  • Consider the scale of your project, especially when numbering. 
  • Have a strategy for documenting versions.
  • Don’t overwrite file extensions. 

Filenames need to make sense for you and your project or team. Some elements to consider for a filename include: 

  • Project name
  • Name of file creator
  • Project number
  • File type
  • Sequence ID
  • Accession number
  • Date of creation


 filename example