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Research Data Services @SDSU

Tools and services to help you manage your research data

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 (see File Naming Conventions Worksheet below)

  • 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 and Harvard.

Datasheets for Datasets. by Timnit Gebru, Jamie Morgenstern, Briana Vecchione, Jennifer Wortman Vaughan, Hanna Wallach, Hal Daumé III, Kate Crawford. This article is a good overview of creating machine and human readable documentation for your data.(last revised v.7, 2020)

Another option is to use an Electronic Lab Notebook. A comparison chart was developed for Harvard researchers if you are considering using one.


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