Organise data

How do you find the research data you and your collaborators have created, gathered and manipulated? As time passes and data volumes and file numbers increase how do you prevent the issue becoming unmanageable? It is very easy for research (and any other) data to become disorganised, and data organisation isn’t going to be top of your list of priorities. However data organisation is time well spent. Use file and folder structures, and name, describe and document your data. This will save time, reduce errors and enable you and others to find and understand what you have done. Practical methods and processes, used consistently are required.


  • Save time – being able to find things
  • Reduce loss of data
  • Reduce errors e.g. badly described data, confusion between file versions
  • Enable you and others to find and come back to what you have done
  • Enable you and others to understand what you have done (description)
  • Enable you and others to understand how your data was derived
  • Understand why exactly you recorded what you did
  • Provide evidence of work undertaken
  • Provide evidence of validity of work undertaken
  • Verification – evidence of logical processes and methods
  • Retraceability
  • Reproducibility
  • Allow re-use of data in the short, medium and long-term
  • Support effective data citation in the long term

Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust introduced a structured electronic records system within mental health, with the intention to support operational and research activity.  This involved creating and implementing a comprehensive and consistent scheme of structuring and naming files and folders.  One direct benefit of this work was to facilitate research activity which included searching through and analysis of text of medical records.  It was found that evidence could be discovered in a matter of minutes, which previously demanded hours or even days of effort looking for and manually searching through physical medical records.