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Organize your files

File naming and folder hierarchy

Keeping track of research data and documentation is critical. Strategies include:

  • Spend time planning out both folder hierarchy and file naming conventions in the beginning of a project. Consider how you or others will look for and access files at a later date. Do you think about them by type, location, study or something else?
  • Establish a folder hierarchy that aligns with the project. Example: [Project] / [Experiment] / [Instrument or Type of file]
  • Consider all aspects of the project and develop a file naming scheme that includes important metadata. Example: [Date]_[Run]_[SampleType]
  • Consider sorting when deciding what element of the file name will go first. File names starting with YYYYMM will sort differently than files starting with the MMDDYYYY format.
  • Provide a method for easy adoption. Consider a shared dropbox with the folder hierarchy in place and a readme file in onboarding documentation for new contributors.
  • Check for established file naming conventions. Many disciplines have recommendations, for example: DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program.

For more help, see materials from our workshop on file organization.