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Research Data Management (RDM): Organizing data and file naming

File naming

Here we are referring to the names assigned to the files that contain your data. The goal is to be able to locate the specific file that you need with ease. The file name should help people accurately identify the file. Moreover, it should be descriptive, in the sense that the name should give an idea about the content of the file. This can be achieved by embedding some keyword in the file name. Other information that can be incorporated into the name that helps facilitate identification is the date the file was created and the person responsible for the content. The name should be descriptive but not too long.

Tips for naming your data

  1. Assign a name that gives people a good idea of the content without having to open the file. 
  2. Establish a system and be consistent. 
  3. Avoid using spaces. Substitute them for hyphens (-) or underscores (_). Furthermore, you can eliminate spaces and just use capital letters at the beginning of each word. This is known as "camel case".
    • Examples: benthic_seabed, BenthicSeabed
  4. When naming a research data file, include terms related to its creator, location, date of collection, or subject matter. This will help you identify and locate the specific files you need more easily.
  5. Create file names that are short but descriptive. 
  6. If there are different versions of a document, identify each version within its file name. 
    • Example: DataReport_v1, DataReport_v2, DataReport_FINAL
  7. Write dates using the YYYYMMDD format. Include them in file names to facilitate sorting files in chronological order. 
  • IncorrectYear1 | Summer07 
  • CorrectRiveraBenthicHab_2007.docx | HrndzBenHab2010_v2.csv | LabReport_20190628

This video, designed for a general audience, is part of the State Library of North Carolina's "Inform U" series.

Tips for organizing, protecting and preserving your data

  1. Use different methods to protect your data: 
    • Passwords 
    • Limiting access to folders
    • Use encryption 
  2. Have a back-up strategy
    • Maintain at least three (3) complete and updated copies of your data 
    • In at least two (2) different types of storage media (e.g., an external memory device and your computer) 
    • And keep one of the copies outside your regular work area (e.g., in the cloud or in an external memory device kept in a separate location) 
  3. Be aware of important factors when using cloud services 
    • Review contracts and terms and conditions 
    • Identify policies related to:
      • File encryption
      • Server locations 
      • Who is the owner of the data 
      • Elimination of data once contract expires 
    • If you work with sensitive data, avoid using cloud services

Data Management by the University of Wisconsin Data Services


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