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The way you organise your research data affects the way you access, sort and use them.
This section has information on folder structure, file (i.e. document or data) naming and versioning.
File structures and naming conventions are often unique to lab and research groups, so please check with your School to find out if there are existing protocols for organising your data.
Watch this video for an overview of data organisation.
A folder structure organises digital and physical data into logical groups. Follow these principles:
Be consistent when you name your data and the folders they’re stored in. Decide on a convention early in your project and stick to it. Record your convention (e.g. in a lab notebook, or in a README.TXT file) and make it available to anyone else who needs to access and use the data.
Choose useful keywords that you and others might use to search for your folders and files, separating each word with a hyphen or underscore. Useful keywords may include:
Consider how your storage system will sort and display your files when you name them. For example:
The software or computing environments you work with may impose technical restrictions on how you name your files:
Digital data can be easily over-written, changed and copied. Working with outdated versions of files wastes research time and puts the authenticity of your data at risk. A version control system (manual or automated) allows you to keep track of changes made to your data over time.
Some document management systems can manage file versions for you. If you are not using a system with automated version control, you can use manual versioning by adding version terms to the file name, e.g.
Alternatively, you can use a version control table.
Find out more:
Page authorised by University Librarian
Last updated on Thursday 01 August 2019
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These guidelines are informed by information provided under open licenses by other organisations including: