Well-organised file names and folder structures make it easier to find and keep track of data files. Think carefully about the best structure for your particular project. When collaborating with others, a logical file structure is even more important.

However you decide to structure your filenames and folders, a few minutes spent recording the format of this structure in a README document will save a great deal of time later. This does not have to be set in stone but will probably evolve as your research develops: make sure you update your documentation periodically.

Good file names can provide useful clues about the content and status of a file, can uniquely identify a file, and can help in classifying files. File names can contain:

  • project acronyms
  • researchers' initials
  • file type information
  • version number
  • file status information
  • date

Cessda Data Management Expert Guide: File naming and folder structure

UK Data Service: Organising data

Consider the best hierarchy for files and decide whether a deep or shallow hierarchy is preferable. Files can be organised in folders according to a variety of groupings, such as:

  • date of capture
  • project phase
  • key variables (e.g. main reagent, geographical location, etc.)
  • methodology (e.g. simulation, interview, etc.)