Researchers often use structured guidelines known as file-naming conventions to describe the content and date of the file. These conventions help you track different versions of a file and determine which is the most current.
A file naming convention will:
In short, using a file naming convention will save you time by keeping your work organized and understandable. Consistently organizing your files in a logical way will also make it easier to analyze and process your files, and the data they contain, with scripts and other tools. This ability to automate your workflows will not only cut down time but also make it easier to reproduce your research and rerun analysis in a timely fashion.
As you and your research partners establish file-naming conventions, we recommend you consider these guidelines:
A researcher often keeps a daily electronic journal. In her research project folder she has a folder titled “journal.” Inside this folder are text files named with a simple date format - YYYYMMDD.
project-folder journal 20170101.txt 20170102.txt 20170102.txt other-sub-folder
A lab has weekly meetings to discuss their work, issues, and upcoming events. Each week a different lab member takes the meeting minutes to help distribute the workload. A file naming convention for this group might be:
project_folder minutes 20170206-project-weekly-minutes.docx 20170213-project-weekly-minutes.docx 20170220-project-weekly-minutes.docx
A biomedical engineering lab is taking numerous samples from a heart and staining them to learn more about the tissue samples. The lab would like the samples to link the experiment and lab notebook in a systematic method so the entire lab understands which samples connect to which experiment.
The team develops a method that formats their naming convention using the experiment number, A or B, section number, and stain used. An example of this naming convention would look like 0231A_216_act where 0231 is the experiment number, A stands for apex, 216 is the section number, and act is the stain (actinin). A folder of these slides might be organized like:
0231A_216 0231A_216_act 0231B_100 0232A_215 0232B_215_act
In this way, the researchers can programmatically sort a large number of files by experiment number, section, or stain. While this naming convention is more complex than our other examples it fits the needs of a particular lab.
This example is provided by University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Lamar Soutter Library in the New England Collaborative Data Management Curriculum in Module 1.