Data management good practices

File naming

File naming and folder organization will be one of the primary tools you have to manage your data. There are a number of different strategies you can use to organize your files. Your folder structure is primarily a way of grouping similar or related files together, and some possible grouping strategies are listed here. Whatever organizational scheme you create should be one that is relatively easy for you to remain consistent with. What consistency
creates is an expectation -- even if you don't know exactly where a specific file is saved, you should be able to rely on your system to know where it should have been saved, and look there first.


A goal for file naming is to give enough information so that either the creator or a new user can figure out where the information in the file fits into the project.

File names should be:

  •     Unique
  •     Consistent
  •     Easy to skim or scan
  •     Designed to help groupings of files fall into a useful order

Folders and directory structure are important to consider, too

  • They can be simple - just a list - or a complex, multi-level hierarchy, or in between
  • Be sure they complement your file naming scheme
  • Consider copying a scheme from another realm of your life
  • There is software that may assist you

Elements may be included in your file names

  •     Date
  •     Project name
  •     Type of data
  •     Conditions
  •     Location/spatial coordinates
  •     Researcher info
  •     Version

File naming tips

  •     Use this date format - YYYYMMDD
  •     Be brief
  •     Abbreviate when it makes sense
  •     Use leading zeros - 001, 002
  •     No spaces, use underscores or remove the spaces
    •         Zea_mays
    •         Zea-mays
    •         Zeamays
    •         ZeaMays
  •     Avoid special characters
  •     Consider how the files will sort
  •     Think about others who will be using the files

Renaming existing files

If you are renaming older files, you have options:

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2024 3:03 PM