Research is tricky. If we knew in advance that something was going to work, it’s probably debatable whether it is ‘research’ in a sense that really matters for your thesis. I mention this because, for most students, they are going to create a lot of different data files in the process of finding out what ‘works’ for their project. This post is about why you want to spend some time thinking about, and managing, your spatial data as you travel through your candidacy.
If you are already on the journey, have a look at your spatial data. Go on, we’ll wait for you…
OK, be honest, did you see any files with a name like:
(I swear I didn’t make this one up!)
What about “output22” or some variant of “this_one”?
If you did, all is not lost. It is, however, probably a good time to sit down and have a chat with yourself about what you are doing to your research data.
Workspace folders are wily beasts. You need to keep an eye on them. They get chaotic quickly, especially when you are in the throes of research inspiration. Have a think about how often you should sit down and actually look at what’s happening in this folder.
An appropriate recurrence interval will depend on your work style and project size. It can also be influenced by where you are at in your candidacy. Make time to work on your project as well as in it, and your final stages before submission will feel a little more sciencey and be less reliant on fuzzy memories of stuff you did ages ago…
If the situation has gotten away from you, ask for help. You will have to do the tidying up – it is your mess after all – but we can help you with some advice on how to tackle it and work out how often you need to be doing your Tip 2 Housekeeping.
Spatial data file management gets more comfortable with practice. In future posts, I’ll write up some tips for managing file names while you are in the process of testing a bunch of ideas. Unsurprisingly, having a plan is key to making this more straightforward and there are techniques that can help you manage your way through.
In the meantime, if you didn’t go and check your filenames back when you said you did at the beginning of this post, make some time to do this soon. It is a straightforward way to check the temperature of your spatial data management situation and catch things before they get too hot to comfortably handle.
Are you interested in what GIS&T can bring to YOUR research toolkit?