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Naming Files

Naming Files

Why Think about Naming Data?

Having a consistent system for naming your files has many advantages:

  • Retrieving your files is easy.
  • Files can be identified at first sight.
  • The sorting algorithm of your computer works for you.
  • No mixing up of file versions
  • Duplicates are avoided.
  • Superfluous files are quickly identifed.
  • You understand your own data even long after your project has finished.
  • Others can understand your data e.g. if you work collaboratively or if you have to pass on your data on occasions like a change of job.

How to Find a System for Naming Your Data

Ask yourself what kind of information on your files allows you to identify them at first sight. This could be, for example:

  • Name of Author_year_title (e.g. for secondary literature)
    Menon_2008_Unhistorical_Shakespeare.pdf
  • Date_title_number (e.g. for empirical data)
    20171203_stolen-generation_interview_01.docx
  • Title_text type_date (e.g. for the text of your thesis)
    Heraldry-in-medieval-England_outline_20170728.docx
    Heraldry-in-medieval-England_chapter1_20170728.docx

Consider the following rules for naming files:

  • Use names or abbreviations which clearly describe the content of the files.
  • The file names should be as concise as possible.
  • Write dates according to the scheme JJJJMMTT.
  • Absolutely avoid the characters “ / \ : * ? ‘ < > [ ] & $ = ; , |
  • Avoid special characters and umlaute.
  • Avoid blanks and instead use underscores.