Step 2

Naming Conventions

What is a File Naming Convention?

A File Naming Convention (FNC) is a framework or protocol if you like for naming your files in a way that describes what files contain and importantly, how they relate to other files. It is essential prior to collecting data to establish an agreed FNC.

What is a File Name?

‘File names’ are the names that are listed in the file directory and that team members give to new files when they are saved for the first time.

What are the benefits of using a file naming convention?

Naming files consistently, logically and in a predictable manner will prevent against unorganised files, misplaced or lost data. It could also prevent possible backlogs or project delays. A file naming convention will ensure files are:

The University of Edinburgh has a comprehensive and easy to follow list (with examples and explanations) of 13 Rules for file naming conventions

Coming up with a plan for your team on how to name files.

Former PhD student and subsequent founder of the Figshare platform, Mark Hahnel, typified a common challenge: ‘During my PhD I was never good at managing my research data. I had so many different file names for my data that I always struggled to find the correct file quickly and easily when it was requested. My former PI was so horrified upon seeing the state of my data organisation that she held an emergency lab book meeting with the rest of my group when l was leaving’. Research Information, April/May 2014

Your research team should agree on the following elements of a file name prior to data collection:

As previously suggested, consistent and meaningful naming of files and folders can make everyone’s life easier. See this example below:

YYYYMMDD_SiteA_SensorB.CSV Date Location Sensor Which when applied, would look like this below 20150621_Yaouk_Humidity.CSV

Some characters may have special meaning to the operating system so avoid using these characters when you are naming files. These characters include the following: / \ “ ‘ * ; - ? [ ] ( ) ~ ! $ { } &lt > # @ & space tab newline


Let’s look at some easy naming convention for your data files and documents. Any dates are best stored with YYYY-MM-DD. Try to avoid spaces in your file names


Make sure you follow 13 Rules for file naming conventions


Do you have a policy in your team around naming conventions? If not, this is a great way of getting everyone on the same page

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