Large research projects can generate hundreds of data files. Short descriptive file names and a simple file hierarchy make these files easier to navigate and locate.  Set up conventions for your project, document them for all team members, and be consistent.

Download file naming best practices as a PDF

Recommended conventions:

Denote dates in YYYYMMDD format

DO: Use 20140403

DON’T: Use 04032013

BECAUSE: Computers sort YYYYMMDD in chronological order.


Use a short unique identifier (e.g. Project Name or Grant #)


DON’T: Centre for Hip Health and Mobility

BECAUSE: Short filenames prevent the need for side scrolling and column adjustment.


Include a summary of content (e.g. Questionnaire or GrantProposal) as part of the file name

DO: FileNm_Guidelines_20140409_v01.docx

DON’T: FileNm_20140409.docx

BECAUSE: Files will be easier to find.


Use _ as delimiters. Avoid these special characters: & , * % # * ( ) ! @$ ^ ~ ‘ { } [ ] ? < > –

DO: FileNm_Guidelines_20140409_v01.docx

DON’T: FileNm Guidelines 2014 04 09 v01.docx

BECAUSE: Different computer systems handle special characters differently – filing order, etc.


Keep track of document versions either sequentially (e.g. v01, v02,) or with a unique date and time ( e.g. 20140403_1800)

DO: FileNm_Guidelines_20140409_v01.docx

DON’T: FileNm_Guidelines_20140409_Review.docx AND FileNm_Guidelines_20140409_Investigation.docx

BECAUSE: Two years from now, you won’t remember what you meant.

Make folder hierarchies as simple as possible

DO: F:/ Env/LIBR/DataMgmt_FileFormats_20140409_v01.docx

DON’T: F:/Environment/Library/Woodward/Data/Education/Materials/Draft/2014/04/-DataMgmt_FileFormats_20140409_v01.docx

BECAUSE: Complex folder hierarchies are harder to navigate and offer more opportunities for filing errors. System back-ups may take longer.


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