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Organising Files
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Why organise your data?

Organising Data means keeping your files on your computer following a clearly defined structure. Why do that?

  • to keep track of your files
  • to retrieve files immediately
  • to 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 Suitable System

To design your own concept, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the structure of my project?
  • How will the (written) results of my work be structured?
  • Which steps does my project involve?
  • Which categories would therefore represent my project best?

For example, categories could be primary and secondary literature, the chapters of a thesis, central sources, types of fieldwork data...

Examples

Dissertation in Literary Studies on a Corpus of Literary Texts

  • Primary literature, digitised manuscripts and prints, etc. Notes on primary literature.
  • Secondary literature and notes on it.
  • Papers and publications: Your own papers and publications which are related to your dissertation
  • Material: Images, presentations, audiovisual material...
  • Bibliographies: Your bibliographies on different aspects of your dissertation
  • Notes: Notes you took in diverse contexts like conferences, talks, in the library, while traveling etc. which don't fit into any other category
  • Feedback to your work from your advisor, colleagues, other researchers
  • Abstracts and outlines of your dissertation
  • Text
    • Chapters: Single chapters of your dissertation. Include archive folders for older versions!
    • Full version: Complete text of your dissertation. Include archive folder for older versions!

Project in a Natural Science

  • Literature: Research literature on your topic
  • Data
    • Photographs
    • Fieldwork data
    • GPS data
    • Measurements
  • Publication: Your results
    • Text
      • Chapters
      • Full version
      • Figures

Note that reference managing programs, dependending on their features, can manage sources, secondary literature, your papers and publications, material in many different file formats as well as your notes for you, thus saving you copy-pasted bibliographies and much more, offering many useful additional features.

Document Your System

Document your system in a readme.txt file and keep it with your data to make sure that you will understand what you were doing and thinking at the time, even years later. You can document the content of the folders similarly to the outline of the categories above. Don't forget to include the subfolders!

... and Stick to It!

Organizing data is more of a habit than an art: Do stick to your system unless it turns out to be impractical and demands alterations.

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