Getting started


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If you have not yet created an account, please see the document Creating an account.

Managing your studies

Studies are the main source of data for Qiita. Studies can contain only one set of samples but can contain multiple sets of raw data, each of which can have a different preparation. Many experiments will contain only one data set, which includes data for all samples. Such experiments will include a single sample template and a single prep template.

However, Qiita can also support more complex study designs. For example imagine a study with 100 samples in which:

  1. All of the samples were prepped for 16S and sequenced in two separate MiSeq runs
  2. 50 of the samples were prepped for 18S and ITS, and sequenced in a single MiSeq run
  3. 50 of the samples were prepped for WGS and sequenced on a single HiSeq run
  4. 30 of the samples have metabolomic profiles

To represent this project in Qiita, you will need to create a single study with a single sample template that contains all 100 of the samples. Separately, you will need to create four prep templates that describe the preparations for the corresponding samples. All raw data uploaded will need to correspond to a specific prep template. For instance, the data sets described above would require the following data and template information:

  1. All of the samples prepped for 16S and sequenced in two separate MiSeq runs
    1. 1 preparation (prep) template describing the two MiSeq runs (use a run_prefix column to differentiate between the two MiSeq runs, more on metadata below) where the 100 samples are represented
    2. the 4-6 fastq raw data files without demultiplexing (i.e., the forward, reverse (optional), and barcodes for each run)
  2. 50 of the samples prepped for 18S and ITS, and sequenced in a single MiSeq run
    1. prep templates, one describing the 18S and the other describing the ITS preparations
    2. the 2-3 fastq raw data files (forward, reverse (optional), and barcodes)
  3. 50 of the samples prepped for WGS and sequenced on a single HiSeq run
    1. 1 prep template describing how the samples were multiplexed
    2. the 2-3 fastq raw data files (forward, reverse (optional), and barcodes).
    3. NOTE: We currently do not have a processing pipeline for WGS but should soon.
  4. 30 of the samples with metabolomic profiles
    1. 1 prep template. the raw data file(s) from the metabolomic characterization.
    2. NOTE: We currently do not have a processing pipeline for metabolomics but should soon.

Creating a study

To create a study, click on the “Study” menu and then on “Create Study”. This will take you to a new page that will gather some basic information to create your study.


The “Study Title” has to be unique system-wide. Qiita will check this when you try to create the study, and may ask you to alter the study name if the one you provide is already in use.


A principal investigator is required, and a list of known PIs is provided. If you cannot find the name you are looking for in this list, you can choose to add a new one.

Select the environmental package appropriate to your study. Different packages will request different specific information about your samples. This information is optional; for more details, see the metadata section.

Finally, select the kind of time series you have. The main options are:

  • No time series: the samples do not represent a time series.
  • Single intervention: the study has only one intervention, the classic before/after design. This can be also selected if you are only following individuals/environments over time without an actual intervention.
  • Multiple intervention: the study includes multiple interventions, such as 2-3 antibiotic (ABX) interventions.
  • Combo: the  samples are a combination of those having single and multiple interventions.

Additionally, there is a distinction between real, pseudo or mixed interventions:

  • Real: the study follows the same individuals over time, so there are multiple samples from the same individuals.
  • Pseudo: the study has time information from diverse individuals; for example, it includes samples from individuals from 3 to 60 years of age but has only one sample per individual.
  • Mixed: the study is a combination of real and pseudo.

Once your study has been created, you will be informed by a green message; click on the study name to begin inserting your sample template, raw data and/or prep templates.


Inserting sample templates

The first point of entrance to a study is the study description page. Here you will be able to edit the study info, upload files, and manage all other aspects of your study.


The first step after study creation is uploading files. Click on the “Upload” button: as shown in the figure below, you can now drag-and-drop files into the grey area or simply click on “select from your computer” to select the fastq, fastq.gz or txt files you want to upload.

Uploads can be paused at any time and restarted again, as long as you do not refresh or navigate away from the page, or log out of the system from another page.


Once your file(s) have been uploaded, you can process them in Qiita. From the upload tool, click on “Go to study description” and, once there, click on the “Sample template” tab.  Select your sample template from the dropdown menu and, lastly, click “Process sample template”.


If a sample template is processed successfully, a green message will appear; if processing is unsuccessful, a red message describing the errors will appear. In this case, please fix the described issues, re-upload your file, and then re-attempt processing.

You can download the processed sample template file from the “Sample template” tab. If you are using a single-user install, you will see the full path on your computer for downloads; alternately, if you have a multi-user install, you will be able to download the files, see below:


An example of how downloads differ between the single- and multi-user installs. In a single-user install, the file-path on your system is provided. In a multi-user install, an actual download of the file is available.

Adding a preparation template and linking it to raw data

Once the sample template is successfully processed, you will be able to use the “Add prep template” tab.


After you’ve added a new prep template, you can either (a) select a new raw data file from the drop-down menu of uploaded files or (b) add raw data from another study to which you have access. The latter ability exists as a way to avoid duplication of uploads, since some studies share the same raw data (for example, the same fastq files).


Prep templates are not shared, only raw data can be shared.

Here you should select what kind of data you are processing (SFF, FASTQ, etc). Once the selections are made you can “Link” your raw data. This action will take you to a new page, where the moving/adding job is created, but you can move out of there whenever you want.



From that moment until the job is finish, you will see a “Linking files” message and you will not be able to add any more files or unlink them.

Adding prep templates is similar to adding sample templates except that, in addition to selecting the prep template file from the dropdown menu, you will also need to select what kind of prep template (16S, 18S, etc) and the corresponding investigation type. The investigation type is optional for Qiita, but a requirement for submitting your data to EBI.


Finally, when you add a new prep template, you will get two new links or two full paths for those running Qiita on your local machine: one to download the prep template you uploaded and another one that is a QIIME-compatible mapping file. The QIIME mapping file is a combination of the sample and the prep template.

Preprocessing data

Once you have linked files to your raw data and your prep template has been processed, you can then proceed to preprocessing your data. Here <>__ a list of currently supported raw files files.


Once the preprocessing is finished you will have 4 new files:

  • preprocessed fasta: demultiplexed sequences in fasta format
  • preprocessed demux: demultiplexed sequences in an HDF5 format (more demultiplexing process below)
  • log: the classic QIIME split libraries log that summarizes the
  • preprocessed fastq: demultiplexed sequences in fastq format.

The HDF5 demuliplexed file format allows (described in detail here) for random access to sequences associated with samples, as well as per-sample statistics. This format originated from the need to fetch sequences associated with individual samples, which required substantial overhead when working with ASCII formatted sequence files such as fasta and fastq. The structure provided by HDF5 enables Qiita to rapidly access the sequence data for any sample, and additionally, to efficiently subset (potentially randomly) the corresponding sequences.

HDF5 can be thought of internally as a filesystem, where directories are called “groups” and files are called “datasets.” In the HDF5 demux format, a sample is a group and the sequence data are decomposed into multiple datasets. Specifically, the following datasets are directly part of the sample group:

  • sequence, which contains the actual sequence data stored as a vector of string.
  • qual, which contains the quality scores per sequence per nucleotide, stored as a matrix of integers. Sequences that do not have quality scores associated (e.g., sourced from a Sanger file) will have zeros for all positions.

Barcode details can be found under the “barcode” group of the sample. Within there are three datasets:

  • original, which contains the original barcodes associated with the sequences stored as a vector of string.
  • corrected, which contains the corrected barcodes (e.g., the result of a corrected substitution error within the barcode) associated with the sequences stored as a vector of string.
  • error, which contain the number of observed barcode errors per sequence stored as a vector of integer.

All datasets within a sample are in index-order. In other words, the sequence at index zero corresponds to the quality at row zero, corresponds to the barcode at index zero, etc.

Last, the following summary statistics are tracked per-sample (accessible via the group attributes) and per-file (accessible via the file attributes):

  • n, the number of sequences stored as an integer.
  • max, the maximum sequence length stored as an integer.
  • min, the minimum sequence length stored as an integer.
  • mean, the mean sequence length stored as a floating point value.
  • std, the standard deviation of sequence length stored as a floating point value.
  • median, the median sequence length stored as a floating point value.
  • hist, a 10-bin histogram of sequence lengths stored as a vector of integer.
  • hist_edge, the edges of each bin in the sequence length histogram stored as a vector of integer.

Once you are happy with these files and you are ready for publication, you can contact one of the Qiita admins to submit to EBI, this process normally takes a couple of days but can take more depending on availability and how busy is the submitting queue.

Study status

  • Sandbox. When a study is in this status, all the required metadata columns must be present in the metadata files (sample and prep), but the values don’t have to be filled in or finalized yet. We suggest adding TBD as the temporal values of these fields. The purpose of this status is so that users can quickly upload their sequence files and some (possibly incomplete) metadata in order to have a preliminary look at their data.
  • Private.  Moving from sandbox to private status requires the user to correct and finalize their metadata. On the each study overview page, there is a button that the user can use to request approval. Approval must be provided by a Qiita admin, who will validate and finalize the metadata. After a study moves from sandbox to private status, very little can be changed about the study without reverting the study to sandbox.
  • Public. Once a study is made administrator-approved and becomes private, the user can choose when to make it public. Making a study public means that it will be available to anyone with a Qiita user account (e.g., for data downloads and meta-analyses). When a study is public it cannot be changed. All associated templates will be public as well.