Describe Your Data

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Data Management requires that collection and analysis methods be well documented and that deliberate and organized file naming procedures be established.

The following elements will  make your data and your research more useful and impactful. Let us know if you need assistance at


file naming: File naming is important to the data collection and management process, and it is crucial that researchers develop procedures early in the research process to avoid problems later on. These guides are helpful for researchers develop file naming procedures and ‘version control’.

If you are looking to convert the names of you files, there are a few application that can help. See:


metadata: This is information about a data set.  Typically metadata is created to help potential users understand how the data was created and other important factors that cannot be determined by looking at the data itself.  Various organizations have created metadata standards to guide data developers to provide key metadata and standardize how metadata is written within a given field of research. For example, if you are working with sequencing data, in many cases you will be required to submit data to the Sequence Read Archive.

To find a metadata schema for your discipline or data type see theses Metadata directories:


log: a document that records the actions taken to either collect data or analyze a dataset with specific software.


codebook: a document that lists the codes and meanings assigned to each code used in a research project.

The Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) has developed a comprehensive Guide to Codebooks 


readme file: a file that describes the files present in a file collection, gives more information about a given file, or describes a piece of software or an analysis script.

A good description of the elements of a readme file can be found on Cornell University’s Guide to writing “readme” style metadata