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Arts & Humanities Research Data Guide

Data Organization & Metadata

Data Organization

File naming conventions help keep information organized, aiding in accessibility.

It's best to keep file names consistent and relevant for yourself and your team so that files can easily be found. Your team should agree on a standard file name vocabulary (i.e., a common language), guidelines for when to use punctuation and symbols, a format for dates (i.e., DDMMYYYY), the file order, and the format for numbering (i.e., 01 or 000001).

Also, remember to include a version number at the end of the file name (i.e., v 05), and change it each time the file is saved. Note: some collaborative storage software (i.e., Box, Google Docs, etc.) have version control that can be activated.


Metadata is the label next to the painting in the museum. It's the credits at the end of a movie, and it's the citations at the end of a book. Metadata is data about data. Metadata helps make information accessible by standardizing how it is described. There are metadata standards for various types of data (i.e., Dublin Core for general data, or TEI for humanities data), and it can be formatted in multiple ways (i.e. readme.txt, xml, html). The following information should be documented regardless of data type at the very beginning of your project and throughout. Refer to the "Contacts for Data Assistance" page for additional help with metadata.


The name of the dataset or project that produced the dataset.


The names of the people or organization that created the data.


Keywords used to describe the subject or content of the dataset.


An explanation of the dataset's content.


The name of the organization that funded the research.


Significant dates for the project (i.e., the start and end data, the release date, the time period covered by the dataset, etc.).


The language(s) of the dataset's content.


Where the data originated from. (i.e., Photographer Unknown. Fashion blogger Susie Glen at Music Fest. 2017. Instagram: Susie Glen @suglenn.

File Formats

A list of the file format(s) in the dataset (i.e., JPEG, CSV, PNG, etc.).


Spatial coverage if the data relates to a physical location.

Access Information

How the data can be accessed by other researchers.


Who owns intellectual property rights to the data.

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