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Data Management: Data Organization and Documentation

Keeping Your Data Organized and Usable

The data management practices you engage in as your project is underway can affect the accessibility of data during the research process, and have lasting effects long after the project concludes. Fortunately, many of these activities are basic and require very little extra effort. Organizing your files, adequately describing the content, and conducting regular backups will keep your data easy to use, particularly if your research team is large or the project is long-term.

Many free tools are available to help you manage your research data, including these programs below:

Bulk Rename Utility: an interface for renaming and moving multiple files at once.

Colectica for Excel: a Microsoft Excel plug-in to add descriptive and background information to your spreadsheets.

Open Refine is an open source tool that can be used to clean and transform data from one format to another.

File Organization

Creating a consistent filing system to maintain easy access to all your data.  Ad-hoc filing systems may not be easy to navigate among several members of a research team, or after lengthy amounts of time have passed. While there is no single “correct” way to organize your files—every project is different—there are some best practices that are recommended.

Click below for a guide on organization:

Data Documentation

Even with excellent organization structures, files and the data they contain can still be unclear, particularly if they have not been examined for long periods of time. Saving additional documentation to the folder in the form of plain text files can provide context and explanation.

Click below for a guide on on documentation:

Guide to Controlled Vocabularies