File names should:
Here's an example of a well-constructed, well-documented file name:
MaizeRootCarbon = experiment name
012 = experiment number
056 = sample number
af = stain used, acid fuchsin
0423 = 2-digit coordinates of image (4 across, 23 down)
raw = data stage
You can help keep your variable usage clear by using a data dictionary. Data dictionaries are documents that include variable names along with their descriptions, data types (such as date or integer), units of measurement, possible values, etc.
Using standards as you collect your data will help you and any future researchers trying to make sense of your data. Data standards are specific to particular type of experiment or field of study. They can define:
A standard can involve any of all of these components. There is no standard for standards, and many thousands of data standards have been developed. Unless a standard is used by others in the field, it has very limited utility—so when determining whether to use a particular standard, always find out if a particular standard has widespread support or is, for example, just used by the lab that developed it.
Electronic lab notebooks can help provide infrastructure for organizing and managing your data. There are many different lab notebooks on the market, all with different affordances. What works for one researcher or lab may not work for another: Harvard Medical School has developed an expansive comparison grid to help you evaluate lab notebooks.
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