Err on the side of keeping emails, documents, etc. Here are some examples:
- Save emails. Most email systems now allow you to archive even without into a specific folder, so you don’t have to save them all in your inbox (a person very close to me whom I won’t name has over 2000 messages in his inbox and it stresses me out whenever I walk by his computer). You never know when you might need to pull up that email, whether it’s to show your adviser that he really did say 10:00 AM, not 11:00 AM, or to remind yourself what room that meeting is in, or to demonstrate to the student in your class that you did indeed tell her that the paper was due at 5:00 PM not midnight. Documentation of email correspondence is valuable.
- Save most documents you write or receive. Even save older versions of them, rather than overwriting one version over and over. If I’m working on a document over a period of months, I don’t necessarily save a new version every day that I work on it, but I try to save a new version every month or so (so on my computer there will be 2014-09, 2014-10, 2014-11 versions). Just today a student and I were looking at a manuscript we’re working on and wanted to pull up an older version to see how we had described analyses before changing them, and we were lucky we had the older version. You never know when you might need that document, and trying to recover it from the trash is no fun.
- Save syntax, always. This issue probably should be its own post, but for now, please believe me that you should never run analyses and then not save the syntax. If you use the windows driven commands (e.g., in SPSS) then at least paste them and save them. On the same paper we recently had an issue where we needed to check some analyses and the first author hadn’t saved syntax, which led to hours of trying to recreate what she did, rather than being able to pull up a file and run it in 5 minutes. Even if the paper that used that syntax is published, some day you may want to know how you computed that composite variable, or will want to run similar analyses in a different paper, and you will be so relieved that you have those syntax. .
- Save documents related to your courses (thanks Deb Temkin). In particular, save class papers because you may some day want to write a grant proposal or manuscript with similar ideas, and will want to return to your great conceptual explanation of that really relevant theory. Sometimes returning to old papers you wrote while immersed in a literature can be very helpful. Other times when you return to a paper 5 years later it's not as amazing as you thought, but if you don't have it, you will always remember it as amazing and lost. Also save all class syllabi. You may one day want to teach the same course, and knowing how someone else designed the course will be a great springboard. Also, I've had former students email me many years later asking for a syllabus because they need it for some licensing or accrediting program, and your life will be easier if you save it yourself, rather than relying on others to do so.
The post “Don’t delete first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on November 13, 2014.”