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UMass Amherst Libraries

Managing Your Data

Take care of the products of your research -- the tips here will help your work be available long into the future!

Organize Your Data

Recognize the ways you can organize your work.

Arranging your data can help de-clutter your folders, refine your work, and help you understand how your data fits in with other datasets. When working in a lab, an organization plan can help you understand what projects are underway, the status of each project, or help you easily locate a figure or document on a shared drive.

Certain tools, like Electronic Lab Notebooks, can also help you keep track of your projects. Note that these are tools in your larger plan to organize your data, and not a solution.

Resources and tools

Resources and tools:

Questions To Think About

Questions to think about: 

  • What file naming scheme will you use? Will you use a file hierarchy to divide your work into meaningful sub-components? Consider writing a readme file that outlines how you will apply these two concepts.
  • How will you keep your folders and data tidy?
    • Will you use version control?
    • Will you create an ‘archive’ folder that holds previous versions of your work?
  • While your project is active, how will you store your data? 
    • For individuals:
      • Will you primarily use your laptop to gather your research? (remember to back up your work regularly)
      • Will your work be distributed across multiple platforms? (Google Drive, Box, Scrivner, Word, etc.?) If so, how will you keep track of everything?
    • For labs:
      • What instruments do you use to gather data? Where is this data stored? How will you transfer data to a shared space?
      • Do you have a dedicated server space, departmental server, or a lab-run server?
      •  How will you encourage members of your lab to stick to an organizational hierarchy and naming scheme?



Mind map activity: 

Sketch out what you capture in the process of doing your research. How do your files and folders relate to one another? Do you see a systematic way to organize your work? See our example image below, or follow the link to a blank template for this activity.

This activity can also help you determine your file hierarchy.

File hierarchy activity: 

Sketch out your system for organizing your files and folders. We've shared our example file hierarchy blow, or feel free to use our template. 

Note: Readme files are included at each level of our file hierarchy. This helps orient someone to your project. 

Readme files include information relevant at that level -- for example, the readme.txt in the ProjectFolder will include information  abot the project as a whole, and the readme.txt in the RawData folder will have information about how the raw data was collected. 

Further Reading