Organise and structure data/files

Choosing a logical and consistent way to organise and name your data files and folders allows you and others to locate and use them. Think about how to name and structure your data at the start of a project.

Organising your data files carefully will save you time and frustration and prevent duplication or errors by helping you and your colleagues find what you need when you need it.

Tips

  • Existing conventions and procedures – find out what they are (research group, Department, College or University) and follow them, or help put some in place.
  • Consistency – agree what works and stick to it.  Don’t use no or multiple conventions.
  • Use of folders – apply logical structuring of files within folders relating to projects or issues, keeping things in the same place and making them easy to find.  Don’t leave files unsorted, hanging under top level folders.
  • Structure folders hierarchically – design a hierarchy with higher level broader topics, with more specific folders within these.  Do not create very tall, and/or labyrinthine structures e.g. with similar issues appearing at multiple levels.
  • Good folder naming – folders should be named after projects and research issues, with clear meaning.  Do not create names which are meaningless (or only mean something to you), excessively long, or relate to individuals.
  • Current and completed work – it may help to separate current and completed work or versions or files/documents e.g. where a document will have many versions and multiple contributors consider a “Current version” folder.
  • Review what you have – don’t keep pointless multiple copies of data, and consider carefully what you need to retain, for how long, and what can (and can’t) be destroyed/deleted.  Consider this at intervals and at the end of a project.

Don’t name folders or store data in relation to the names of individuals e.g. 'Fred stuff'. What happens when they leave?  Who knows what is there?

Don’t use excessively long or meaningless folder and file names - follow an appropriate convention that everyone knows about.