README files

READMEs are text files (.txt) containing information about datasets. They are intended to ensure that the data they describe can be correctly interpreted by you at a later date, or by others when they are shared or published


In principle, any hierarchy of data files should have at least one primary README placed at the root of the directory. Secondary READMEs may also be created to accompany folders or files that require specific information.

A primary README file should contain at least the following information:

  • The names of the principal investigator and co-investigators of the study
  • A description of the methodology and tools used for data collection
  • The dates of data collection
  • A description of the directory hierarchy, the type of data it contains and the file naming convention
  • A complete list of all titles/codes/abbreviations and conventions used in the files.
  • The conditions for sharing and access (licensing) during and after the end of the project.

All of this information corresponds to the main types of metadata. For more information on this topic see the page: "Creating metadata" on this site.

How to create a readme file?

README files can be created manually, without the need to use a specific standard or controlled vocabulary, and are therefore easily understood by humans. Templates containing the basic fields to be filled in, such as the one from Cornell University, can be found online to guide the creation.

As with all research data documentation actions, it is best to create READMEs or at least document the information you will want to include in them at the beginning of the data collection or even during the planning phase.

README example
4TU.ResearchData published an example of a README file they recieved in their data repository.