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Research Data Management

Learn how to manage your research data throughout the data lifecycle: including data management plans, data organization, file formats, as well as data sharing/re-use.

file formats

Choosing an appropriate format for the data is also an important aspect of long term access and usability. When you choose one of the preferred file formats below, you ensure that your data will  continue to be accessible. Below are basic guidelines when preparing data for submission:

  • Non-proprietary
  • Open, documented standards
  • Commonly used by your community/discipline
  • Standard character encoding (ASCII, UTF-8)
  • Unencrypted

Below is a table developed by the UK Data Archive that provides acceptable formats for preservation based on the type of data.

Type of data
Recommended formats
Acceptable formats

Tabular data with extensive metadata

variable labels, code labels, and defined missing values

SPSS portable format (.por)

delimited text and command ('setup') file (SPSS, Stata, SAS, etc.)

structured text or mark-up file of metadata information, e.g. DDI XML file

proprietary formats of statistical packages: SPSS (.sav), Stata (.dta), MS Access (.mdb/.accdb)

Tabular data with minimal metadata

column headings, variable names

comma-separated values (.csv)

tab-delimited file (.tab)

delimited text with SQL data definition statements

delimited text (.txt) with characters not present in data used as delimiters

widely-used formats: MS Excel (.xls/.xlsx), MS Access (.mdb/.accdb), dBase (.dbf), OpenDocument Spreadsheet (.ods)

Geospatial data

vector and raster data

ESRI Shapefile (.shp, .shx, .dbf, .prj, .sbx, .sbn optional)

geo-referenced TIFF (.tif, .tfw)

CAD data (.dwg)

tabular GIS attribute data

Geography Markup Language (.gml)

ESRI Geodatabase format (.mdb)

MapInfo Interchange Format (.mif) for vector data

Keyhole Mark-up Language (.kml)

Adobe Illustrator (.ai), CAD data (.dxf or .svg)

binary formats of GIS and CAD packages

Textual data

 

Rich Text Format (.rtf)

plain text, ASCII (.txt)

eXtensible Mark-up Language (.xml) text according to an appropriate Document Type Definition (DTD) or schema

Hypertext Mark-up Language (.html)

widely-used formats: MS Word (.doc/.docx)

some software-specific formats: NUD*IST, NVivo and ATLAS.ti

Image data

TIFF 6.0 uncompressed (.tif)

 

JPEG (.jpeg, .jpg, .jp2) if original created in this format

GIF (.gif)

TIFF other versions (.tif, .tiff)

RAW image format (.raw)

Photoshop files (.psd)

BMP (.bmp)

PNG (.png)

Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF/A, PDF) (.pdf)

Audio data

Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) (.flac)

MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 (.mp3) if original created in this format

Audio Interchange File Format (.aif)

Waveform Audio Format (.wav)

Video data

MPEG-4 (.mp4)

OGG video (.ogv, .ogg)

motion JPEG 2000 (.mj2)

AVCHD video (.avchd)

Documentation and scripts

Rich Text Format (.rtf)

PDF/UA, PDF/A or PDF (.pdf)

XHTML or HTML (.xhtml, .htm)

OpenDocument Text (.odt)

plain text (.txt)

widely-used formats: MS Word (.doc/.docx), MS Excel (.xls/.xlsx)

XML marked-up text (.xml) according to an appropriate DTD or schema, e.g. XHMTL 1.0

Source: UK Data Archive, https://www.ukdataservice.ac.uk/manage-data/format/recommended-formats.aspx

Additional Resources: