MIT Libraries logo MIT Libraries

Massaschusetts Institute of Technology logo MIT Logo Search Contact

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.

Need more help?

Consider these resources:

Download the whole file organization package.

Also see our materials from our workshop on file organization.