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Data Management: Organization

Resources and strategies for managing research data

Organizing Your Data


Organization helps you find and sort through your data and makes it easier to use your data in the future.

The most important thing for organization is to have a system and use it consistently. Here are several options for organization:

  • By project
  • By analysis type
  • By date
  • By researcher
  • By thesis chapter
  • By site or data source

You can also use these systems in combination.

Basically, figure out a system that works for your data (does not have to be listed here) and stick to it.


Thesis data:
    By chapter
        By file type (draft, figure, table, etc.)

A PI's collection of grad student data:
    By researcher
        By project
            By date

Naming Conventions

Consistent file naming means you can tell at a glance what a file contains. This is useful for searching through content, for organizing data, and for collaborations/your own reuse.

Use consistent naming for groups of related files. Pick 2-3 things that will help you distinguish a file's contents, such as:

  • Date
  • Site
  • Analysis
  • Sample
  • Short description

Combine into a pattern for naming your files. Follow these other rules:

  • Files should be named consistently
  • Files names should be descriptive but short (<25 characters)
  • Use underscores instead of spaces
  • Avoid these characters: “ / \ : * ? ‘ < > [ ] & $
  • Use the dating convention: YYYY-MM-DD


    "20140422_PikeLake_03", "20140424_EastLake_12", etc.

    "Smith-2010-ImpactOfStressOnSeaMonkeys", "Hailey-1999-VeryImportantDNAStudy", etc.

More Information

The Data Services librarian position is currently vacant. You may direct your questions to the Scholarly Communication team at 

The content of this guide is available under a CC-BY license with attribution to UWM Libraries.