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Research Data Management

This guide is intended to assist researchers with data management and provide access to data management tools and services.

File Names

File names and a simple hierarchy will make files easier to locate. Set up conventions for your project, document them for all team members and be consistent! 


  • Use dates in YYYYMMDD format (20220403)
  • Use a short identifier (e.g Project Name or Grant #)
  • Include a summary of content (e.g Questionnaire or GrantProposal) as file name
  • Use_as delimiters. Avoid: &,*%#*()!@${}[]?<>-
  • Keep track of document versions either sequentially or within a unique date and time
  • Make folder hierarchies as simple as possible


Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY)

Adapted from the University of British Columbia's "Organize"

Data Documentation

Without description, data is hard to understand and use. Make your data FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) by describing it with metadata (data about data). Metadata is sometimes captured through deposit in data repositories, but you can also prepare data dictionaries, codebooks and README files to further describe and contextualize your work. 

README files are plain text documents that sit at the top level of project folders and describe the purpose of the project, contact details, and organization of files. Including a README with your work helps ensure that future users will understand the data, any terms, and more. 

README files should include: 

  • Title
  • Principle Investigator(s)
  • Dates/Locations of data collection
  • Keywords
  • Language
  • Funding
  • Descriptions of every folder, file, format, data collection method, instruments, etc. 
  • Definitions
  • People involved
  • Recommended citation

For more information about writing README files for data, Cornell University has a comprehensive guide and template.  

Metadata Standards

Metadata standards or schemas consist of specific elements used to describe or document your data. Some disciplines have established metadata standards. In addition, some data repositories have their own standards. There are also several general purpose schemas that you can adapt to fit your needs. Below are some metadata standards:


Creative Commons License
Metadata Concept Map by Amanda Tarbet is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

General: Dublin Core | MODS
Social Science: DDI
Humanities: TEI | VRA
Sciences: Darwin Core | ITIS | EML | DIF | SEED | FGDC | ISO 19115

The UK's Digital Curation Centre (DCC) also maintains an inventory of discipline-specific metadata standards

(Adapted from Queen's University Research Data Management LibGuide)