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NRE/LA 355: Managing Data

NRE/LA 355: Introductory Geospatial Applications for Land Analysis, Spring 2022


Once you have created or found your data, you will want to make sure it can be easily located and uploaded to GIS software. One easy thing to do is create a folder on your computer where you save all your project files. This can help keep everything organized and save you time later. 

Citing Data

It is important to appropriately cite where you obtained your data to provide proper credit. In general, your citation should include information on: 

  • Creator of the data
  • Name of the dataset
  • Year of data publication
  • Where the data is housed
  • Version (is the dataset a numbered version?)
  • Applicable access information, such as a DOI or URL

DataCite offers a recommended format for data citation at the following website:

Many data websites will provide suggested citations and guidelines. Make sure to examine the websites where you found your information.

Naming & Structures

File Naming Best Practices:

  • Most importantly: Be consistent and descriptive. You want to make sure you can quickly find any file that you need. Below are some tips to consider: 
    • File names should be short but descriptive (<25 characters) Example: School_Locations)
    • Avoid special characters or spaces in a file name. Here is a list of characters to avoid.
    • Use capitals and underscores instead of periods or spaces or slashes
    • Use date format ISO 8601: YYYY-MM-DD or YYYYMMDD
    • Include a version number, especially if you keep editing the data. 
      • Consider keeping a master file that you set aside. This can be useful if at a later date, you want to look at the original data.
    • Write down naming convention in data management plan, especially if this project is something that you plan to go back to at a later date.

Working with Spreadsheets

When working with spreadsheets, there are some best practices:

  • Top row should be a label for each column
  • Each row under the top should contain a single record.
  • Each column is a single variable, such as name or date.
  • Do not use color or comments because these may not carryover into new formats. Instead create a specific column to input comments or notes. 



Shapefiles are one of the most common GIS file types. If you are working with shapefiles, make sure you keep all of the file extensions together. Three pieces are required for any Shapefile to open correctly:

  • 1) A main file (.shp)
  • 2) An index file (.shx)
  • 3) a dBASE table (.dbf) 

Additionally, there can be several other extensions that become part of the cluster.