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Data Management and Record Keeping

Tools, tips and checklists for creating a data management plan and managing data you generate

File Formats

Examples of file formats:

  • Images: jpg, gif, tiff, png, ai, svg,...
  • Video: mpeg, m2tvs, flv, dv,...
  • GIS: kml, dxf, shp, tiff,...
  • CAD: dxf, dwg, pdf,...
  • Data: csv, mdf, fp, spv, xlx, tsv,...

The formats you choose will make future access to your research easier or more difficult. Use non-proprietary, more common formats when you can, and save final versions of files in multiple formats. Ask advisors and colleagues what file formats they typically use, as many disciplines have default formats for their data.

More information on file format best practices can be found here, on the Stanford University Libraries website. The Library of Congress has pages for the Sustainability of Digital Formats and a Recommended Formats Statement, as well. If you are working with website materials, try Archive-It and Robust Links.

*Some information adapted from Educopia Institute ETD+ Toolkit

Helpful Tips

  • LOCKSS: Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe (aside from being a good general rule, LOCKSS is an open-source digital preservation system based at Stanford University Libraries. Learn more here.)
  • Follow the 3-2-1 rule: maintain three copies of your data on at least two different types of storage media with one copy offsite.
  • Become familiar with the retention policies associated with your data. It is generally a good practice to maintain older data for at least five years.
  • Use storage hardware options like a personal computer, external hard drive, local storage/drive, or magnetic tape over something like a USB flash drive (very easy to lose) and transfer any data you have from obsolete media to something more current. CDs/DVDs and cloud storage are other acceptable options, depending on your needs. 
  • Preservation is a "series of managed activities necessary to ensure continued access to digital materials for as long as necessary." (Digital Preservation Coalition). To preserve your data, you might want to employ a tool like Fixity to scan specified folders or directories on a regular basis and report changes to you via email. You might also choose to put your data in a repository that offers similar services. Some popular repositories are listed on the Sharing & Reuse page in this guide.