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Data Management Toolkit @ UNH

This toolkit provides information to help researchers develop data management plans and effectively manage their research data.

File Organization

The information on this page will help you organize your datasets for your own use. You may want to consider using more sophisticated name schema if you are collaborating or want to share your data.  Researchers working together should agree on some basic rules for naming folders and files. 

File Version Control

Keeping track of versions of documents and datasets is critical. Strategies include:

Record every change to a file no matter how small. Discard obsolete versions after making backups.

Directory Structure Naming Conventions

When organizing files, create a logical and manageable structure for your folders and subfolders.  Clearly document the hierarchy rules and naming convention.  Consider how people will need to search for files, how often new folders will need to be created, and the level of granularity. File naming best practices also apply to folder naming.

File Naming Conventions

The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources (pdf) provides a helpful list of file naming best practices:

  • Avoid using special characters in a file name. \ / : * ? “ < > | [ ] & $ , .
  • Use underscores (_) instead of periods or spaces to separate terms.
  • Err on the side of brevity. Try to keep file names under 25 characters.
  • The file name should include all necessary descriptive information independent of where it
    is stored. Files may be moved from their original location.  Identify the activity or project in the file name
  • Include dates and format them consistently (for example, YYYY_MM_DD or YYYYMMDD).
  • To more easily manage drafts and revisions, include a version number on
    documents.
  • Make files sortable and findable.
  • Be consistent!
  • There will be exceptions. 

File Naming Conventions for Specific Disciplines

Many disciplines have recommendations, for example:

File Renaming

If you already have lots of files named, you can use free tools to help you: