Think of a file name as a unique identifier for each of your files. Following a naming convention allows you to simplify the organization of your files and locate your files with ease, as well as making it easier for others to understand and reuse your data. This is particularly important when you are working on a collaborative project.
How should you name your file?
Here are some recommended best practices for naming your files:
Use names that are brief but descriptive
Avoid spaces and special characters (ex: *, #, %, etc.)
Come up with a naming convention adhered to by everyone using the files
Identify versions of files using dates and version numbering in file name
Use three letter file extensions to ensure backwards compatibility (ex: .doc, .tif, .txt)
Do not use letter case to identify different files (ex: datasetA.txt vs. dataseta.txt)
How should files be structured?
Folder structure for your files can assist in the unique identification of the files contained within them. Consider the structure of the folders containing your data files before you begin to collect your data. Ideas for how to organize your folders include:
Data type (text, images, models, etc.)
Time (year, month, session, etc.)
Subject characteristic (species, age grouping, etc.)
Research activity (interview, survey, experiment, etc.)
Consider these examples:
File naming: File001.txt vs. 201206blood_ID0234.txt
Folder structure: MyDocuments\Research\Sample12.jpg vs. C:\\NEHGrant01234\WWI\Images\London_001.jpg
Guidelines to using a file naming system to assist in management of image files.
Why does data format matter?
To maximize the share-ability and re-usability of your data, you will want to carefully consider the format in which your data is saved. Careful selection of data format can also help you down the road by limiting the chances of your data becoming obsolete when a proprietary format is no longer supported.
What format should you use?
Formats which are more than likely to be accessible in the long-term are:
If you have questions about data organization and format or would like to request a consultation with a member of the Scholarly Communications and Publishing Team, please email email@example.com or click the "Ask Us" link on the top right side of this site.