File naming and folder structure
To enable you to identify, locate and use your research data files efficiently and effectively you need to think about naming your files consistently and structuring your data files in a well-structured and unambiguous folder structure.
File naming strategy
Two important starting points for your file naming strategy are:
- A file name is a principal identifier for a file
Good file names provide useful clues to the content, status and version of a file, uniquely identify a file and help in classifying and sorting files. File names that reflect the file content also facilitate searching and discovering files. In collaborative research, it is essential to keep track of changes and edits to files via the file name.
- File naming strategy should be consistent in time and among different people
In both quantitative and qualitative research file naming should be systematic and consistent across all files in the study. A group of cooperating researchers should follow the same file naming strategy and file names should be independent of the location of the file on a computer.
In the tabs, a best practice and examples of useful file names are given.
Structuring your data files in folders is important for making it easier to locate and organise files and versions. A proper folder structure is especially needed when you collaborate with others.
The decision on how to organise your data files depends on the plan and organisation of the study. All material relevant to the data should be entered into the data folders, including detailed information on the data collection and data processing procedures.
Consider the best hierarchy for your files and decide whether a deep or shallow hierarchy is preferable. If you have several independent data collections, it is advisable to create a separate data folder for each collection. For inspiration, have a look at the examples in the accordion below.
TIP: Batch renaming of automatically generated files
Batch renaming is organising research data files and folders in a consistent and automated way with software tools (also known as mass file renaming, bulk renaming).
Batch renaming software exists for most operating systems. See the accordion for examples.
It may be useful to rename files in a batch when:
- Images from digital cameras are automatically assigned base filenames consisting of sequential numbers;
- Proprietary software or instrumentation generate crude, default or multiple filenames;
- Files are transferred from a system that supports spaces and/or non-English characters in filenames to one that doesn't (or vice versa). Batch renaming software can be used to substitute such characters with acceptable ones.
How to ... use Bulk Rename Utility
Follow the steps in the video to use Bulk Rename Utility to batch rename your files.