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Basic Directory and File Naming Conventions

These are rough guidelines to follow to help manage your data files in case you don't already have your own internal conventions. Guidance on persistent external identifiers is also available. When organizing files, top-level directory/folder should include the project title, unique identifier, and date (yyyy or yyyy.mm.dd).

The sub-directory structure should have clear, documented naming conventions. Separate files or directories could apply, for example, to each run of an experiment, each version of a dataset, and/or each person in the group.

  • Reserve the 3-letter file extension for application-specific codes, for example, formats like .wrl, .mov, and .tif.
  • Identify the activity or project in the file name.
  • Identify separate versions of files and datasets using file or directory naming conventions. Record all changes to a file no matter how small. Discard obsolete versions after making backups.

File Renaming

Tools to help you:

File Naming Conventions for Specific Disciplines

Many disciplines have recommendations, for example:


Credit to the University of Virginia's Scientific Data Consulting Group and the MIT Libraries for permission to use and adapt their data management planning pages, and to members of the UC3 community. Please send us any comments about these guidelines.

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Last updated: April 30, 2013
Document owner: Perry Willett