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Organizing Your Research: Home

How to manage your research documents and time

File Naming

Naming your files consistently has two advantages: versioning and organizing. Versioning allows you to create drafts in case you wish to return to earlier instances of your work. Organizing permits you to easily find what you are working on. To accrue these advantages, follow this file naming convention:


To maximize this system, open your previous day’s project, immediately save it under the new day’s date, and begin working. Following this file naming convention will organize your projects alphabetically by title and then version. 

Archival File Naming

Follow the same file naming procedure for notes taken in the archive as those taken over the course of library research. However, while conducting archival research you should add an additional step--scanning the items you review. If you are allowed to scan documents, follow the following procedure to take and organize your scans: 

  • Download a document scanner app to your mobile device
  • Take a photo of the front of the box (Manuscript Number and Manuscript Name visible)
  • Take a photo of the file folder (number visible)
  • Take a photograph of files in order (ideally all files)

Then how you organize the files depends on how many scans you take. Options include:

  • MSS####_Box##_FF###.EXT (new file per file folder)
  • MSS####_Box##.EXT (new file per box)
  • MSS###.EXT (new file per collection) 

If you are conducting archival research at a number of institutions, amend your file names accordingly:

  • LIB_MSS###_Box##_FF###.EXT 

File Saving

Archivists advise backing up your content in three places:

  • Local Machine
  • Cloud Service
  • Off-Site Hard Drive

Triple saving may seem like a hassle, but it is better than starting over from scratch. Create a schedule and stick to it. A common one is daily backups to your local machine and the cloud and semester backups to offside hard drives. 

Apps and Tools

Citation Management

Cloud Backup

Data Management

Note Taking 

  • Evernote: Good for assortment of notes
  • Google Docs: Best when using in tandem with Google Drive
  • Pocket: Create reading lists of online content
  • Trello: Create and manage multiple to-do lists


  • Scanner App: Create PDFs and send directly to cloud storage
  • ScannerPro: Classic app, Create PDFs and send directly to cloud storage

Social Media 

  • Hootsuite: Manage different types of social media 
  • Tweetdeck: Manage different Twitter accounts in one location

Time Tracker

  • Google Alerts: Learn about new content on topics 
  • RescueTime: Learn which sites you spend the most time on
  • StayFocusd: Chrome extension to limit time on specified websites
  • Toggle: Track your time


Have suggestions of apps, tools, or other resources I could add to this page?

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Amy Chen's picture
Amy Chen
University Libraries
100 Main Library
Iowa City, IA 52242