Organising Data

Here are some examples for types of data and file formats:

  • Images from the field (.jpeg)
  • Progress reports & presentations (.docx, .pptx & .pdf)
  • Field observations (.xlsx & .csv)
  • Analysis files & graphics (.xlsx & .R)

Include contextual information

You must consider incorporating the following types of contextual information when you organise your data folders.

  • Date
  • Collaborator
  • Data collection method
  • Location
  • Data type

File naming

Naming Standard Description of Naming Standard
Numbering Standards Specification of digit numbers to ensure a consecutive listing of files
Date Standards Specification of date formats to ensure a consecutive listing a files e.g. ‘YYYY-MM-DD’
Punctuation Standards Do not use any punctuation or spaces (e.g., \ / : * ? “ < > | [ ] & $ , .) except for underscores or hyphens to partition words. The period sign should only precede the file extension e.g. ‘project_101_sample_001.xls’ or ‘project-101-sample-001.xls’
Vocabulary Standards Maintain disciplinary standards in vocabulary, language and abbreviations e.g. ‘project-101-pcr-sample-001’ or ‘project-101-microarray-sample-101’
File Version Numbering Label the file versions in numerical terms e.g. ‘1.0, 1.1, 1.2 etc.’
File Version Description Complete file naming appropriately through the use of descriptive terms at the end of the document name e.g. ‘draft_1, draft_2, final_1 etc.’

Best practice

Useful file names are:

  • Consistent
  • Meaningful but brief names
  • Allow you to find the file easily
  • Name independent of location
  • No special characters, dots or spaces
  • For separation use underscores _
  • Versioning via filename: ascending, decimal version numbers
  • Use names to classify broad types of files
  • Avoid very long file names

Data versioning

When you want to save new copies of your file, you must be aware of the versioning research data. Here are some suggestions:

  • Include a version number, e.g “v1,” “v2,” or “v2.1. For e.g., DataFileName_1.0 = original document; DataFileName_1.1 = original document with minor revisions; DataFileName_2.0 = document with substantial revisions
  • Include information about what changes were made, e.g. “cropped” or “normalized”


  • 20130503_DOEProject_DesignDocument_Smith_v2-01.docx
  • 20130709_DOEProject_MasterData_Jones_v1-00.xlsx
  • 20130825_DOEProject_Ex1Test1_Data_Gonzalez_v3-03.xlsx



Research Data Management Toolkit: Organising Research Data, The University of Western Australia

Data Management Services, Stanford University Libraries