Source Your Data Files

Source your data. Spell out exactly where it came from, so that someone other than you, several years in the future, could understand its origin.

Label the file name

Everyone has seen examples of bad file names:

  • data.xls
  • bldgdatalist.csv
  • data77.xls

Write a short but meaningful file name. If different versions of the data are floating around, add the current date at the end, in YYYY-MM-DD format, perhaps like this:

  • town-demographics-2016-03-08.xls

Save source data in separate sheet

If you have doubts when cleaning up columns, click (or right-click) on the spreadsheet tab to copy the sheet to another tab as a backup, to avoid destroying any data.

Add a source tab, after the data, with notes to remind you and others about its origins and when it was last updated.


Source your data

 - explain that data cannot be copyrighted, but representations of data can be
 - open-source and creative commons
 - credit sources and collaborators on dataviz products and readme files
 - Whose perspectives does your data privilege? Whose stories remain untold?

Data Visualization For All is copyrighted by Jack Dougherty and contributors and distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may freely share and modify this content for non-commercial purposes, with a source credit to
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