Library:Research Data/Organize

From UBC Wiki

It is important to apply an organizational scheme to your data. Certain funding bodies may have particular requirements for how you label, store, and organize your data. In the absence of specific requirements, an organizational scheme can be as simple as applying consistent and logical names to your files. It can be tempting to think you will later remember what the file is and where it fits, but as you accumulate a host of other research materials it can become difficult to find that initial data file or remember its purpose. Furthermore, file names should outlast the data file creator, meaning that they should be decipherable to a complete stranger who cannot ask the data creator for clarification.

File Naming Conventions & Best Practices

Above all else, be consistent with conventions. Download these instructions as a PDF.

Keep file names short but descriptive with the following:

Denote dates in YYYYMMDD format
DO: Use 20140403
DON’T: Use 04032013
BECAUSE: Computers will sort YYYYMMDD in chronological order.

Unique identifier (e.g. Project Name or Grant #)
DON’T: Centre for Hip Health and Mobility
BECAUSE: Keep it short to avoid side scrolling and column adjustment.

Summary of content of document (e.g. Questionnaire or GrantProposal)
DO: FileNm_Guidelines_20140409_v01.docx
DON’T: FileNm_20140409.docx
BECAUSE: Files will be found more quickly and easily.

Use _ as delimiters. Avoid these special characters: & , * % # ; * ( ) ! @$ ^ ~ ' { } [ ] ? < > -
DO: FileNm_Guidelines_20140409_v01.docx
DON’T: FileFm Guidelines 2014 04 09 v01.docx
BECAUSE: The special characters are difficult to read and different systems do handle them differently.

Keep track of document version either sequentially or with a unique date and time (e.g. v01, v02, 20140403_1800)
DO: FileNm_Guidelines_20140409_v01.docx
DON’T: FileNm_Guidelines_20140409_Review.docx AND FileNm_Guidelines_20140409_Investigation.docx
BECAUSE: Keep the versions clearly documented because category style addendums will be confusing in the future.

Avoid complex folder hierarchies if possible
DO: F:/ Env/LIBR/DataMgmt_FileFormats_20140409_v01.docx
DON’T: F:/Environment/Library/Woodward/Data/Education/Materials/Draft/2014/04/-DataMgmt_FileFormats_20140409_v01.docx
BECAUSE: Complex folder hierarchies require more effort for file navigation and saving. System back-ups may also take longer.

For more information: UK Data Archive. (n.d.). Organising Data. Retrieved from