The Library Blog
29 May 2019

Documenting data: Readme.txt

Sharing a dataset is nice, but to make it truly open you must make sure it can be interpreted and used in a meaningful way. This means your data should always include documentation that explains everything a third party should know, and a Readme file is perhaps the easiest sort of documentation you can create.

When should you start?

Documentation should start before you even collect any data. A simple document should describe your plans, which will then help you organise and document your data in a more usable way. It will eventually describe the context, structure and contents of the whole dataset.

Once your data is collected, you can include this document at the root of your dataset and give it a filename that makes it stand out, such as “readme.txt”. It should contain any relevant information from study-level (about yourself and your project) down to the description of individual files or variables.

What is in a readme file?

A Readme file is usually a simple text document (in .txt or any other durable storage format), which should contain all the basic information about your dataset...

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