smith is the professor’s last name
bio101 is the abbreviated course name
syllabus represents the main file content
2017 is the calendar year
.pdf stands for the file type— portable document format
Note the use of lower-case characters and underscores as delimiters.
Let’s think about the smith_bio101_syllabus_2017.pdf document. I might organize the directory tree like this:
smith → 2017 → biology→101 → smith_bio101_syllabus_2017.pdf
Let’s assume that “smith” is the professor’s name, and the name of our home directory. I chose 2017 (year) and department (biology) as the top-most layers, because these categories are broad and generally constant. On the other hand, course number (101) and accompanying materials (such as syllabi) may be subject to change. The professor may not teach 101 every year, or the topics taught in 101 may shift.
Note that the file hierarchy repeats some of the metadata in the syllabus file name (smith_bio101_syllabus_2017.pdf). Although this may seem redundant, it is good practice to include all key information in a file name. A good file name allows users to understand a file’s contents with having to rely on context (such as file hierarchy), which might be problematic when sharing materials.