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Scholarly Communication @ UT: Organize and Document

A guide to learn more about scholarly communication, including open access, copyright, and grant funding resources.

Organize Your Research Data

Great organization is your best asset for data management.

  • Create a system
  • Work with collaborators
  • Use file version control

Use a System

The most important step to organize your research data is having a system and using it consistently. You may choose to organize your data by the following, or use them in combination:

  • By project
  • By data
  • By analysis type
  • By research
  • By site or data source

Document, Document, Document

Document throughout your research process. 

  • Document any data processing analyses
  • Take notes!
  • Include both written, electronic, and recorded notes
  • Create documentation within your organization at project and folder levels
    • Create a README.txt file
  • Use descriptive names within your documentation

README.text Files

README.txt files are a recommended method to document your project and add context when clarity is needed. 

You should use a README.text file at the top level of your research project folder to explain the purpose of the research, the relevant summary, name and contact information for project researchers, general organization of your files, and copyright and licensing information. A README file will be crucial for another researcher or collaborator to understand your data - but could even be useful to yourself in six months or six years when you might return to a project. 

Organize Your Folders

Separate out your research instead of putting all your samples in a general folder or a hard drive. Label it with the grant number, research site, type of data, and name the data file meaningfully.

Example: 
Don't: Documents\Research\Sample1.jpg
Do: C:\\NSFGrant123\CaloRiver\Images
       \Calo_20170120.tiff

Name Files Meaningfully

Use meaningful names that are consistent, descriptive, and short.

A great way to meaningfully name files is to include the project, instrument, and the year, month, and date in the file name.

Example: 
Don't: File12935.xls
Do: Project_Instrument_location_
       YYYYMMDD.csv

Use open file formats

Open file formats are less likely to become obsolete. Proprietary software, such as Microsoft Office Suite, may become obsolete. Open file formats have a history of wide adoption and backward compatibility. By choosing open file formats you can help ensure your data is accesible in the future.

Choose open formats:

  • .txt over .docx
  • .cvs over .xslx