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Choosing file formats

Choosing file formats

When preparing to collect research data, you should chose open, well-documented and non-proprietary formats wherever possible. The choice of format will vary depending on how you plan to analyse, store and share your data. 

You should consider the key questions below, and consult the advice on specific media, long and short term formats, dissemination and preservation formats, and proprietary formats. Guides with recommended formats are available below.

Four key questions in choosing formats

  • How do you plan to use the data that you produce? How will you store, share and analyse your data?
  • Do you have any funding for new software, if it is required? You can check the UCL ISD software database, which lists software that is available to you.
  • Do your peers expect your data to appear in certain formats? Do you have access to expertise in particular software or to best practice information for your discipline or research area?
  • Does your funder have expectations regarding how you present your data? Read our advice on funders’ expectations.
Specific advice for text, images, audio and video files
Recommended format guides
Long term preservation and short term dissemination formats
Dissemination and preservation formats
Dealing with proprietary formats

If you have any questions about how to deal with a specific format, or you have any further questions, please contact the Digital Curation Team.

Acknowledgements

This advice is partly based on the University of Cambridge Data Management Format FAQs.