5. Data Organization and Formatting

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Data organization and formatting is essential to make your table understandable. The following guidelines to support data organization were modified from those created by Cornell University.

Column headings should be meaningful, but not overly long. Use only alphanumeric characters or hyphens in column headings. 

Use standard names where possible. Examples include using the International Standard Organization (ISO) system

When using non-standard codes, create a supplemental table with code definitions to define the codes in the metadata. 

If the data file is in a comma-separated value (CSV), avoid using special characters, such as commas, semicolons, or tabs. 

Use only the first row to identify a column heading. Examples of good column headings: 

  • max_temp_celsius – not max temp celsius (includes spaces) 
  • airport_faa_code – not airport/faa code (includes special characters) 

Present date information in an appropriate machine-readable format.

For example yyyymmdd or yyyy-mm-dd. 

Indicate the time zone and the use of a 12-hour or 24-hour system. Other example includes mm: two-digit minutes; ss: two-digit seconds; TZD: time zone designator.