VCU Libraries

Research Guides

Research Data Management

Organizing Your Data

Organize and name files meaningfully.

What makes sense for you:

  • File type
  • Date
  • Type of analysis

Use file naming conventions for related files

  • Be consistent
  • Short yet descriptive
  • Avoid spaces and special characters

Possible elements for file names:

  • Project/grant name and/or number.
  • Date of creation: useful for version control, e.g. YYYYMMDD
  • Name of creator/investigator: last name first followed by (initials of) first name.
  • Name of research team/department associated with the data.
  • Description of content/subject descriptor.
  • Data collection method (instrument, site, etc.).
  • Version number.

Use open file formats for long term storage of data: Some file formats are less susceptible to obsolescence than others

  • pick TXT over DOCX
  • CSV over XSLX
  • TIF over JPG

Documenting Your Data

Project- & folder-level

Use Readme Files

  • Names + contact information for people associated with the project
  • List of files, including a description of their relationship to one another
  • Copyright + licensing information
  • Limitations of the data
  • Funding sources / institutional support
  • Any information necessary for someone with no knowledge of your research to understand and / or replicate your work.
  • more about Readme files from Cornell.

Examples of Documentation

An Example of Readme file and metadata for a dataset in Dryad.

Readme file for this data

Metadata for the data set