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Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Love Your Data Week, Day 3: Help Your Future Self
By Help Your Future Self, we mean Write It Down: document, document, document! Your documentation provides crucial context for your data. So whatever your preferred method of record keeping is, today is the day to make it a little bit better! Some general strategies that work for any format:
Be clear, concise, and consistent.
Date everything, use a standard format (ex: YYYYMMDD).
Try to organize information in a logical and consistent way.
Define your assumptions, parameters, codes, abbreviations, etc.
If documentation is scattered across more than one place or file (e.g., protocols & lab notebook), remind yourself of the file names and where those files are located.
Review your notes regularly and keep them current.
Keep all of your notes for at least 7 years after the project is completed.
Things to avoid:
Using abbreviations or codes that aren’t defined.
Using abbreviations or codes inconsistently.
Forgetting to jot down what was unusual or what went wrong.This is usually the most important type of information when it comes to analysis and write up!
Today's Activity: If your documentation could be better, try out some of these strategies and tools:
Readme files are a simple and low-tech way to start documenting your data better. Check out the sample readme.txt (filename = readme_template.txt) from IU.