Answered By: Alessandra Seiter
Last Updated: Apr 14, 2020     Views: 41

Whether you are in an academic, research, or workplace context, it is likely you are working with information contained in digital directories and files. In order to effectively find this information and make it accessible to others for collaboration, you will want to name those directories and files according to certain conventions. The list of conventions below is reproduced from Harvard Library's Data Management research guide:

  • Avoid using special characters: \ / : * ? “ < > | [ ] & $ , .
  • Use underscores instead of spaces or periods.
  • Try to avoid long names and be as brief as possible.
  • The name should be as descriptive as possible (in case it is moved).
  • Include dates (i.e. YYYYMMDD) and times (i.e. hhmmss).
  • Be consistent.

An example of a file name created using the above best practices is: Project_instrument_location_date_time_version.ext

If you are working with a large number of files and need to rename them in bulk, you can use a file-naming application:

Especially within the context of research projects, file-naming should not happen in isolation of a broader data management strategy. For more information, consult our FastAnswers on research data management and data management plan development.