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Folder structure

Folder structure

A folder structure convention should be agreed to and adopted by the entire group at the beginning of the project. Every project has specific needs, therefore a folder structure should be decided on a case-by-case basis. Here we provide some generic guidelines that can be used to implement a folder structure for a research project.


  • List all the type of files required for your work and try to group them according to logic criteria.
  • Consider a nested folder structure.
  • Go from a general, high-level folder (e.g., a single folder for the project, using its name or acronym) to more specific lower-level folders.
  • Possible criteria to organize folders could be:
    • Projects (README.txt); Administration (Budget, Approval, Travels); Planning (DMP, Ethics,); Literature; Experiments (ExperimentA, ExperimentB…); Dissemination (Posters, Presentation, Publications).
    • ExperimentA (RawData, ProcessedData, DataAnalysis, OutputAnalysis, Protocol); Publication (Draft, Submission).

Folder structure do’s and don’ts


  • Make it intuitive, clear and understandable for everyone.
  • Apply file naming guidelines for naming folders.
  • Use shortcuts of one file in different folder and keep a single reference file.
  • Include documentation to explain a complex folder structure (such as a README.txt) at the root of your folders.
  • Keep a “raw data” folder for each data type or experiment.


  • Make your structure too deep nor too shallow (the number of levels depends on the project).
  • Use a generic “current stuff” or “my stuff” folder.
  • Create researcher-specific folders (“Name_Surname” folder) within a project: folders are about the contents, not the authors.
  • Create similar folders in different places (overlapping categories or folder redundancy).
  • Create copies of files in different folders.

Sources and further reading