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Research Data Management at Princeton

An overview of best practices for managing research data

File naming

Descriptive file names are an important part of organizing, sharing, and keeping track of data files. Develop a naming convention based on elements that are important to the project.

File naming best practices:

  • Files should be named consistently
  • File names should be short but descriptive (<25 characters) (Briney, 2015)
  • Avoid special characters or spaces in a file name
  • Use capitals and underscores instead of periods or spaces or slashes
  • Use date format ISO 8601: YYYYMMDD
  • Include a version number (Creamer et al. 2014)
  • Write down naming convention in data management plan

Elements to consider using in a naming convention are:

  • Date of creation (putting the date in the front will facilitate computer aided date sorting)
  • Short Description
  • Work
  • Location
  • Project name or number
  • Sample
  • Analysis
  • Version number




File structure

Hierarchical file structures can add additional organization to your files. As with file naming use whatever makes most sense for your data. Some possibilities include:

  • Project
  • Date
  • Analysis
  • Location

For more on file structure, versioning, and a bonus preview of metadata and documentation, watch the Software Carpentry video on Data management