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Tools to organize, access, and catalog the variables of interest in a scientific study


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Tools to organize, document, and validate the variables of interest in scientific studies

Command line usage

masterfile --help will list all the subcommands.


masterfile create masterfile_path out_file


masterfile join masterfile_path out_file


masterfile extract [-s|--skip ROWS] [--index_column COL]
                      masterfile_path csv_file out_file


asterfile validate masterfile_path [file [file ...]]

Draft API usage example

import masterfile
# Load all of the .csv files from /path, and the dictionary files in
# /path/dictionaries. Takes settings info from a 'settings.json' file in
# /path.
# joins the .csv files on 'participant_id', which will be used as the index
# There will be warnings if the data look bad in some way
mf = masterfile.load('/path')
# Get the pandas dataframe associated
df = mf.dataframe  # aliased as mf.df

# All the variable stuff is less important, people can go look in data dicts
# So we'll write that stuff later.
v = mf.lookup('sr_t1_panas_pa')
v.contacts # list_of_names  # Someone
v.modality # Component("self-report")

CSV file format

CSV files should be comma-separated (no surprise there) and have DOS line endings (CRLF). They should not have the stupid UTF-8 signature at the start. UTF-8 characters are fine. Missing data is indicated by an empty cell. Quoting should be like Excel does.

Basically, you want Excel-for-Windows-style CSV files with no UTF-8 signature.


  • CSV format
  • Has AT LEAST two columns: component, short_name
  • Those are the indexes
  • There shouldn't be any repeats in the index
  • The settings.json file should contain a "components" thing that says what should exist in the component column
  • Things with blank component are ignored (TODO: Maybe?)

Exclusion files

  • CSV format
  • Live in exclusions/
  • One row per ppt, one column per value
  • Has index column, same as data file
  • Blanks mean "Use this value," nonblanks mean "exclude this value"
  • Things in the cells may be codes; these codes may be defined in settings.json
  • If data is excluded for more than one reason, separate codes with ","
  • Not all rows / columns in masterfiles need to be included in exclusion files. Missing rows / columns are treated like blank values.

Data checks

Here are some (all?) of the things to do to verify you have semantically reasonable data:

  • Variable parts not in dictionaries
  • Missing participant_id column
  • Repeated paticipant_id column
  • Blanks in participant_id column
  • Duplicate columns
  • Column names not matching format

Getting started for development

Create a virtualenv:

virtualenv ~/env/masterfile
source ~/env/masterfile/bin/activate

Install the requirements and this module for development:

pip install -r requirements_dev.txt
pip install -e .

Run tests:


Run tests across all supported Python versions:


To run in a specific python version:

tox -e py37


Written by Nate Vack with help from Dan Fitch

masterfile packages some wonderful tools: schema and attrs.

schema is copyright (c) 2012 Vladimir Keleshev,

attrs is copyright (c) 2015 Hynek Schlawack


Tools to organize, access, and catalog the variables of interest in a scientific study