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Research Data Management

Create documentation about your research data

Best practices for creating documentation

  • Create a procedure for creating documentation for your data
  • Plan your documentation procedures before starting your research project
  • Documentation should provide as much context as possible
  • Your documentation should be safely stored along with your research data
  • Most importantly, be consistent with your documentation practices

Documentation may take many forms:

  • Methods sections
  • ReadMe.txt files
  • Research notes
  • Code books
  • Lab notebooks

Create a file organization system

Using a file naming convention (FNC) is a simple way to organize your files.

  • It gives each file a unique name that describes both its content and it's relation to other files
  • Can be used for both physical and digital files

[FNC for journal articles explanation]

[FNC for Excel spreadsheets explanation]

Best practices for file naming convention (FNC)

  • Identify 4-7 important elements about the data. Elements could include data (YYMMDD format), creator, location, project name, etc.
  • Separate elements with underscores (file_name.doc) or dashes (file-name.doc). Some software don't recognize files names with space.
  • Avoid special characters such as: ~ ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) ' ; < > ? , [ ] { } , "
  • Strike a balance: too few elements creates ambiguity, too many elements limits discoverability
  • Err on the side of brevity by creating meaningful abbreviations
  • Create documentation on your FNC that includes elements used, abbreviations used, updates/changes to the FNC, etc.

Best practices for FNC part 2

Use versioning to track your progress

The easiest way to track file versions is to add 'v01', 'v02', etc at the end of your FNC. Update the version number after each change to the file. Avoid names like 'last', 'initial', 'final', etc. or use software that tracks file versioning like Google Drive.

MOST IMPORTANTLY - Be consistent with your organization practices. Consistency is key to ensuring that you can find your data!

Need to rename many files? Try using a batch renaming tool:

  • Bulk Rename Utility (free, Windows)
  • PSRenamer (free, Windows, Mac or Linex)
  • Automater (Mac - installed by default on Macs)

More information on FNCs - Purdue University Librarie's File Naming Conventions Guide:

Storing and backing up your data

Follow the LOCKSS principle: Lots of Copies, Keep Stuff Safe

Practice the 3-2-1 rule. You should have:

  • 3 copies of your data on
  • 2 different storage media with
  • 1 copy in an offset location

In addition,

  • Test your backups regularly
  • Documents you storage procedures
  • Create digital back ups of your physical data
  • Think critically about storage location and size for your physical data

Your research data is very valuable so it should be stored safely and securely. Doing so will reduce the likelihood of data loss.

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