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Research Data Management

File Naming & Tracking Changes in Files

File Naming

Best Practices:

1. Be consistent.

  • Have conventions for naming (1) Directory structure, (2) Folder names, (3) File names
  • Always include the same information (eg. date and time)
  • Use the international standard date format for easier sorting (eg. YYYYMMDD, not MMDDYYY )

2. Be descriptive so others can understand your meaning.

Try to keep file and folder names under 32 characters

Within reason, Include relevant information such as:

  • Unique identifier (ie. Project Name or Grant # in folder name)
  • Project or research data name
  • Conditions (Lab instrument, Solvent, Temperature, etc.)
  • Run of experiment (sequential)
  • Date (in file properties too)
  • Use application-specific codes in 3-letter file extension and lowercase: mov, tif, wrl
  • When using sequential numbering, make sure to use leading zeros to allow for multi-digit versions. For example, a sequence of 1-10 should be numbered 01-10; a sequence of 1-100 should be numbered 001-010-100.
  • No special characters: & , * % # ; * ( ) ! @$ ^ ~ ' { } [ ] ? < > -
  • Use only one period and before the file extension (e.g. name_paper.doc
    NOT name.paper.doc OR name_paper..doc)

example: Project_instrument_location_YYYYMMDD[hh][mm][ss][_extra].ext

File renaming Applications: If you have many files already named, consider using a file renaming application such as ReNamer (Mac/Windows)

Tracking Changes with Version Control

Keep track of versions of files (version control):

Manually: Use a sequential numbered system: v01, v02


Use version control software such as Git which can track revisions to files and help you roll back to a previous version of a file.

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