Documenting Source Code and Pipeline Workflows


Documenting your project's workflow, not only for others, but also for your future self (i.e., if you plan to continue working on the project after a while) is absolutely crucial to the long-term success of you as a researcher or analyst.

Typically, you would like to

Main Project Documentation

You should place a main project documentation in the root directory of your project (/my_project), and call it readme.txt. Keep the document brief and simple, but include at least the following information:

  • Project name
  • Details about the project
    • Project description ("what does the project do?")
    • Authors and email addresses
    • Date of last update
  • Build instructions
    • Dependencies ("what software is needed to replicate the project?")
    • Explaining the directory structure ("where to find what?")
    • How to run/build the project

Here is an example documentation you can use as a template:


Put project description here. You can use multiple lines, but keep
the width of the text limited to the

Hannes Datta, (maintainer)

29 NOVEMBER 2019


1) Dependencies

Please follow the installation guide on for

- R and RStudio (3.6.x)
  Install the following R packages:

    packages <- c("data.table", "ggplot2")


- Gnu Make
  Put GnuMake and R to path so that you can run it
  from anywhere on your system. See

- Obtain raw data files and put them into /data/

2) Directory structure

The project pipeline consists of the following stages:

/src/collect                Code required to collect/download raw data
/src/data-preparation       Data preparation
/src/analysis               Data analysis
/src/paper                  Stores literature reference, paper, and slides

Each directory has a makefile, with running descriptions
for each stage of the pipeline.

For each pipeline stage, the /gen directory contains
files generated on the basis of the /data and
source code stored in /src.

Each directory contains subdirectories,
    /input (for input files)
    /output (for final output files)
    /temp (for any temporary files)
    /audit (for any auditing files)

3) How to run the project

Navigate to the project's root directory, open a terminal,
and run

> make

Documentation for each stage of the pipeline

Ideally, a makefile lists all the necessary steps to run your pipeline. If you do not have a makefile yet, include a readme.txt instead.

Here is a readme.txt template to start from:

- Provide a two or three sentence overview of the directory.

- If you are using a makefile (strongly recommended!),
  please refer to the content of that file for running instructions.

- If you do not make use of a makefile, please briefly describe
  the contents of the subdirectory and its files.
  Also provide instructions how to run the files, and in which order.