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Library Research Guides

LabArchives: Best practices for research data management

Using LabArchives to organize, store, share, and archive your research data

File-naming conventions

‚ÄčStandardizing filenames is one of the best ways to keep your notebook - and your research - organized. Using standardized filenames helps ensure that like materials (protocols, experimental data, analyzed data) can be easily identified and grouped. It can  also streamline your workflow. With standardized and descriptive filenames, users can quickly scan the name and ascertain the contents of a file without having to open or preview it.

Develop a filenaming convention for your lab or project, and ensure that everyone uses it. Use a readme file to describe your filenaming convention and define the various elements; this facilitates future use of the data long past the project's lifecycle. 

Consider including:

  • Unique identifier (grant number)
  • Project, study or experiment name
  • Location information (may be spatial coordinates)
  • Researcher initials
  • Date/date range (standardized)
  • Experimental conditions (instrument, temperature, etc)
  • Version number (standardized - avoid terms like "final", "revised")
  • File type, or file extension

Best practices for creating standardized file names:

  • Use descriptive names to capture relevant information about the file 
    • Build 2-3 salient characteristics of the project and dataset into the filename
  • Keep filenames short
    • Filenames shorter than 30 characters will help you readily identify contents;
    • Longer names may not be readable by software programs
  • Use alphanumeric rather than special characters
    • Never use " / \ : * < > [ ] $ & ~ ! # ? { } ' ^ %
  • Avoid spaces in filenames
    • Use _ rather than leaving a blank space 
    • Or UseCamelCaseToEliminateSpacesAndPreserveReadability
  • Standardize dates: beginning with the year keeps files in chronological order
    • ISO standards are YYYYMMDD or YYYY-MM-DD
  • Use leading zeros for sequential numbering
    • 001, 002, 003 ... 101, 102, 103
    • Apply this to versions as well, eg v001, v002

Sample file-naming conventions

Bad filenames:

  • mydata_January
  • SR578562
  • draftmanuscript-finalfinal!version3

Better filenames:

  • SOP-WesternBlot_20120703.pdf