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Research life cycle: 2.Research phase: File names

The importance of good file names

Before you start your research, it is advisable that participants agree on a naming convention. This is a standard way of naming your files. Consistent application of this convention will help you to find your files properly. When files are shared, standard naming conventions are even more important.


Part 1: Why is file naming important?
Duration: 3:19 min.

Part 2: How to change a file name
Duration: 2:37 min.

Part 3: What not to do when naming files
Duration: 3:27 min.

Part 4: Best practices for file naming
Duration: 1:43 min.

Structure of file names

Possible components to include in the file name:

  • Title of the project
  • Name of the experiment
  • Name of the researcher
  • Date
  • Data type

Document your choice of naming and meaning in a readme.txt file. Include the folder structure and naming that you have in mind in your data management plan, for example:

This webpage provides more information on how to plan and use an effective file naming system:

Renaming files

Have you collected a lot of data and would you like to rename the files? And are there too many files to do this manually? Then try one of these tools:

Make a copy of your data before you try out a tool!

Do's and don'ts

A number of points to consider when creating meaningful file names:

  • Give meaningful and traceable names, do not make them too long and complicated.
    (e.g.: Project_Instrument_location_YYYYMMDD.pdf).
    To keep names short, it may be necessary to use abbreviations, write them down in a separate text file.
  • If you are consistent and follow an agreed upon system, then files are easy to sort. Possible methods:
    - Chronological
      > start the file name with a date
    - Sequential
      > start or end the file name with a number
    - By respondent or test subject
      > start the file name with the code given to a person
  • Choose one way of noting when using a date in the name. Use YYYYMMDD to sort.
  • Start numbers with zeros to enable sorting
    (e.g.: 001Image.jpg or Report01.docx).
  • Do not use spaces, dots and special characters such as
    ?\!@*%{[<> in the file name. These can cause difficulties when a file is shared over the web. Use the underscore 
    ( _ ) instead of a space. | Disclaimer | Over Zuyd Bibliotheek