Putting your files into folders and naming them effectively can prevent many future problems with accessing your data. Setting up how you will organise and name your data can make you a more efficient researcher and your research more reproducible. Will a future you be able to find the file you save today? 

Organising Folders 

We suggest that you use folders - grouping files within them so information on a particular topic is located in one place. Consider using one folder for one project. 

  1. Name folders appropriately - name folders after the areas of work to which they relate and not after individual researchers or students. This avoids confusion.
  2. Be consistent – when developing a naming scheme for your folders it is important that once you have decided on a method, you stick to it. If you can, try to agree on a naming scheme from the outset of your research project (especially if working with others).
  3. Structure folders hierarchically - start with a limited number of folders for the broader topics, and then create more specific folders within these
  4. Use folders to separate stages/aspects of research: 
    • Ongoing vs completed | Code vs data | Raw data vs derived data | Different types of output
  5. Review files - assess materials regularly or at the end of a project to ensure files are not kept needlessly.
  6. Do NOT use spaces in your folder names. 
  7. Make a little readme file and keep updating it so that it documents the contents of the folder. This could be a metadata spreadsheet.


Source: Nikola Vuković 

Naming Files

It is good to create filenames that are informative to both humans and machines. Managing to do both makes it easier for humans to understand what is in the file and for machines to work with them. 

  1. The computer arranges files by name, character by character. Therefore, put the most important information first. Consider some options for what to include your file name:
    • Date/Date range
    • Study title/Project name
    • Location of data collection
    • Version number
    • Contents of the file
    • Name/Initials of researchers
  2. A good format for date designations is YYYY-MM-DD (see: The Problem with Dates: Applying ISO 8601 to Research Data Management  ).
  3. When using a sequential numbering system, use leading zeros to make sure files sort in sequential order, i.e. use "001, 002, ...010" instead of "1, 2, ...10”
  4. Use versioning to indicate the current version, e.g. filename_v02.xxx becomes filename_v03.xxx
  5. Do not make file names too long (no more than 25 characters). 
  6. Avoid special characters, such as:  ~ ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) ` ; : < > ? . , [ ] { } ' " |
  7. Do not use spaces, as some software will not recognise file names with spaces. 
  8. Decide on conventions for if and when to use punctuation symbols, capitals, hyphens, and spaces.
  9. Use unique names - do not give the same file name in different folders.
  10. Dashes connect, underscores separate. Use “-” to separate words describing the same logical item, and “_” to separate unrelated logical items from one another.

It is important that you decide what formats to choose for your research data from the beginning, when you start planning your project. These decisions will determine how your data may be used, analysed, stored, and reused in the future.  Visit here for some ideal and preferred file format types  to consider using.

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