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Data Management

Why are file names important?

File naming schemas can be a really easy way to track versions, when the data was created, or who created the data. 

While there can be a lot of options and suggestions - pick the file format that makes the most sense to the project. Document this format and what the names mean so that future researchers can understand the process and continue it for future projects. Do not pick overly complicated naming schemes for file, or formats that are not necessarily intuitive.

Name Format Examples

Use a format that makes the most sense for the project! Overly complicated naming conventions may not be intuitive and difficult for future researchers to follow.


Semester term and year 

Include the term and year in the file names - Fall 2022, Interim 2023, Spring 2023, Summer 2023

  • project_fall2022

Date of creation 

If using the date - it is recommended to use a period (.), underscore, or not include a space in the name. Spaces in file names may not be compatible with some software. 

  • 01012023, 01.01.2023
  • project_01012023

Version number of the project, project update count, or file

Use the create date for the original dataset - if updates or copies are made, add an indicator to track versions

  • 01012023.01, 01012023.02
  • project_01012023.02
    • This would indicate a 2nd version of data that was original created January 1, 2023


Other Format Guides

Format Requirements

  • File names should be as short as possible
  • No special characters
    • !@#$%&()?><+{}[]
    • Some software will interpret this as code instead of a file name
    • Foreign language characters are okay, although some software may not be compatible
  • Use a period (.), hyphen, or underscore to separate word
  • Some software interprets a space as a break in a file pathname, which may cause some programs to not function as intended

Data Preservation

For long-term research projects, it is recommended to save data in formats that are as compatible as possible for multiple platforms. 

  • Recommended types are → Rich Text (rtf), Text file (txt), PDF 
  • CSV formats for spreadsheets

If using proprietary software, document the software version and file formats in the event that future software versions end support for those formats.