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Loyola University Chicago Libraries

Spreadsheet Therapy

Principles of "data tidiness" to make spreadsheets easier to manage, use, and understand.

Key Points

Much of the most helpful work you can do happens before you start collecting data

  • Think through the structure of your worksheet​
  • Develop conventions​ for naming variables and columns -- be consistent
  • Set column formats and input validation​ before you start entering data

​Spreadsheets can handle a lot of complexity, but complexity is not necessary for a good spreadsheet. Instead, try to keep it simple:

  • Use names that are descriptive, yet concise
  • Put only one type of information in each cell
  • Be careful how you handle dates

When you think beyond a single spreadsheet, the best things you can do for yourself are to try to enforce transparency and consistency

  • Use a separate file in the same folder to document units, notes, processing, and other details needed to understand your data​
  • Develop a standard way for how you name different files in project folders, and how you keep track of file versions