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Research Guides@Tufts

Research Data Management @ Tufts

File Management

Best practices for file naming:

  • Come up with a naming convention and be consistent. Create a README text file with guidelines.
  • Don't use special characters ~ ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) ` ; < > ? , [ ] { } ' " |
  • Use capitals (example: MyFileName) or underscores (example: my_file_name) instead of spaces
  • Make sure your file names reflect their content (think about what someone else would need to know in order to find and make sense of your files)
  • Use date format YYYYMMDD or YYYY-MM-DD (ISO 8601)
  • If the system does not version your files, include a version number. Use "v" followed by at least 2 digits for proper sorting (example: v01, v02... v10, v11)
  • Keep file names under 32 characters

File organization - things to keep in mind:

  • How would you and others expect the data to be organized? Will you be able to find things in 6 months? A year?
  • Think about intuitive groupings (for example: data type, experiment number or project, date, animal/plant)
  • Keep folder levels to 3 or 4

Data Storage & Backup


Tufts TTS offers secure research data storage on the R drive, with space starting at 50 gigabytes to several terabytes, depending on your needs.

If you are looking for cloud storage, you can use Tufts Box. You get unlimited storage in this collaborative space, which is accessible from any place with an internet connection. It is free and you can log in with your Tufts UTLN and password.

Keep in mind that sensitive or personally-identifying data must be encrypted (converted to unreadable code) in case of loss or theft. TTS offers whole disk encryption services, with a limited number of free licenses available. You can also purchase encrypted external drives from places like Amazon.

For more information, contact:


Backing up your files protects you from data loss. Exercise the 3-2-1 rule:

  • Have 3 copies of your data
  • Use 2 different types of media (for example: networked drive, external hard drive, cloud storage)
  • 1 copy should be located off-site

Documenting your research data

Documenting is important so that you and others can find, make sense of, and actually use your research data!

Different types of documentation:

  • Project documentation (example: protocols, methods): what are the aims of the study? 
  • File documentation (example: a "readme" text file): how do all of your data files relate to each other?
  • Variable documentation (example: codebook, data dictionary): what does each variable represent? What are the attributes, elements, and parameters (including units)? 
    • Remember to include information that someone would need to understand and interpret your data, such as an explanation of any coded values, quality flags, qualifying values, and missing/null values

Tip: Develop standard conventions among all reseachers in your lab and BE CONSISTENT in the way that you describe your content. Make sure you include an explanation of your naming conventions in your documentation!

Documentation Standards:

There are general and discipline-specific standards for documenting research data available for researchers to choose from. These standards outline what pieces of information you should include in your documentation.


  • Dublin Core is a general documentation standard used across disciplines
  • DDI provides a specialized way to document social sciences data
  • Darwin Core outlines a method for documenting data about biological diversity and taxa
  • Search for more by discipline!

Electronic Lab Notebooks @ Tufts

What is an Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN)?

An ELN is like a traditional paper lab notebook, only with extra features. ELNs can be used to document your research methods and processes, as well as keep your files, data, and images in one place. ELNs allow you to collaborate, keep track of previous versions of your work, and search through all of your documents.

ELNs at Tufts

Tufts offers:

  • LabArchives, cloud-based, customizable option that has a more free-form workflow

You can request access to LabArchives via AccessTufts. If you have questions about getting started with LabArchives or organizing your notebook, please email