Data Management Skillbuilding Hub

Best Practice: Use consistent codes


Best Practices by Data Life Cycle

Use consistent codes

Data Life Cycle stage(s): Collect   Describe

Be consistent in the use of codes to indicate categorical variables, for example species names, sites, or land cover types. Codes should always be the same within one data set. Pay particular attention to spelling and case; most frequent problems are with abbreviations for species names and sites.

Consistent codes can be achieved most easily by defining standard categorical variables (codes) and using drop down lists (excel, database). Frequently a code is needed for ‘none of the above’ or ‘unknown’ or ‘other’ to avoid imprecise code assignment.

Description Rationale

Inconsistencies in coding schemes can create confusion on the part of data users. For example, a typical user might not understand why “T”, “temp”, and “t” are used interchangeable within a single data file.



Cite this best practice:

DataONE Best Practices Working Group, DataONE  (September 01, 2011) "Best Practice: Use consistent codes". Accessed through the Data Management Skillbuilding Hub at on Aug 31, 2020


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