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Research Data Management

Best Practices for Organization and File Names

Organizing your data involves developing a directory structure for your files, file naming conventions, and documenting these decisions. Creating a plan for how to organize your data from the beginning of a research project can streamline access to and management of your data.

File Structure

File names should be unique, descriptive, and applied consistently. File names should not use special characters, spaces, or periods (except before the file extension). Underscores or CamelCase should be used to separate elements and overly long file names should be avoided.

Common elements in descriptive file names: Project or Researcher Name, Study/Experiment Title or Type, Location, Date (formatted YYYYMMDD), or Version Number. For example:


Avoid relying on the directory structure to describe file contents. Files should be able to be independently understood by their file name. Consider creating a file inventory (aka manifest) for each folder via a README file.

Need to change a bunch of file names? Some bulk renaming tools to consider: