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
- Folder Structure. The Graduate Institute Geneva https://libguides.graduateinstitute.ch/rdm/folders.
- Folder/data organisation. Ghent University https://www.ugent.be/en/research/datamanagement/during-research/collection.htm#Folder/dataorganization.