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Organising and describing data

Choosing file formats

You should try to save data in an open file format. Technology and software can quickly become out of date, and any data produced may become unreadable.

Choosing an open file format also increases data sharing, citations and research verification.

Your file formats may be determined by the software you need during research. If so, save the data to a more standard format when you have finished.

Any data conversions should be managed by the researcher most familiar with the data, to ensure data integrity.

Suitable open file formats include:

  • Text: Plain text (txt), Open Document Text (odt), MS Word document (doc and docx), HTML
  • Video: MPEG-4 (mp4)
  • Audio: Free Lossless Audio Codec (flac)
  • Images: TIFF, PNG, JPEG2000, PDF
  • Tabular data: Comma-separated Values (csv), tab-delimited file (tab), MS Excel (xls and xlsx), Open Document Spreadsheet (ods)
  • Tabular data with extensive metadata: SPSS portable format (por), XML
  • Geospatial data: SHP, DBF, GeoTIFF, NetCDF