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Data Management Plan Guide

Learn how to write a data management plan!

Step 2. Data organization

There are various methods that can be used to keep data organized. Some of these are simple things we do every day such as saving a new version of a draft using "Save As..." instead of "Save" while others require commitment and planning to implement. The trade-off with setting up a file management systems is that while they take time to set up they will save you time later and reduce errors.

While data organization and quality control methods are very important they probably should not be a significant portion of your DMP.


Writing prompts

Will you be using any type of version control tools?

Version control, also known as "file versioning", is when you save an updated file as a new file instead of overwriting the old file. This lets you "revert" back to an earlier version if needed. While this process can be done by hand it is much easier (and safer) to have a machine assist you.

Example version control tools


Will you use standards to keep data organized?

Standards are similar to protocols - they establish a level of quality by proscribing a set of requirements. There are two types of standards: local and international.

Local standards can be created by an individual, project, lab, department, discipline, or university and are locally enforced.
International standards are created by international organizations and usually have a wider coverage and impact than local standards.

Using standards can save time and reduce common errors. Normally you should not list which standards you are following in a DMP. There are exceptions however, such as when there are established standards for the work you are doing, or if following a standard will strengthen the research's value.

Example of a file naming standard: [3-letter initials of the person who created the file]_YYYY-MM-DD_[scientific name of organism observed]
Example file name: JHD_2015-05-23_e_elegans.csv

Example of an international standard:
June 26, 2015 is written as 2015-06-26 using ISO 8601, the international standard for date and time notation.

If you do not already have local standards for simple things (like file naming or lab notebooks) you may want to take the time to create some even if you do not mention them in your DMP. Taking the time to create and document standards should save time by reducing mistakes and misunderstandings. If you are working with a team in multiple locations you should try to use the same standards as much as possible.



  • Avoid using special characters, including periods, in file and folder names as many programs and operating systems will have trouble opening these files.
  • The ISU Library has a Standards collection, and some of them are accessible online. If you need help locating a standard please contact a librarian through Ask Us!

Step 2. Example: Generic

Example: Data organization blurb

A file versioning system will be used in order to protect the data's integrity during the research period. CyBox, Iowa State's implementation of, will be used as it automatically preforms file versioning every time a file is overwritten ("saved"). This feature will let the team easily perform error checks and data revisions if needed during the project.

International standards will be used as often as possible to maximize data reusability (example: ISO 639-4:2010 will be used to indicate the language of the texts). The PI's lab also has established standards which will be enforced to ensure data collection conformity and quality by all team members.




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