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Data Management: Data Naming & Metadata

File & Data Naming

File Naming 

  • File names should reflect the contents of the file and include enough information to uniquely identify the data file.
    • Name files so they group together. Use the project or investigator.
    • Include version.
    • Do not use spaces or non-alpha-numeric characters.
    • Usually dates written in these formats sort easily: yyyy_mm_dd OR yyyymmdd
  • File names may contain information such as project acronym, study title, location, investigator, year(s) of study, data type, version number, and file type.
    • Sevilleta_LTER_NM_2001_08_17_v3.csv

Data labels

  • Data within the file should be named and stored so that it is retrievable.
  • Use data labels that are descriptive and use data table key.
  • Provide the key when sharing the raw data.

DataOne has a good description of file name best practices.

File Naming

Source: File Naming: a four-part video series from North Carolina Department of Cultural resources under a CC-BY license. 


Metadata - is data about data. It's structured information that describes content and makes it easier to find or use. A metadata record can be embedded in data or stored separately. Any data file in any format can have metadata fields.

At a minimum, create a readme.txt file that contains the basic information about the data, contact information, language, dates, file formats, etc.

More on metadata UCF Libraries Metadata guide