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Research Data Management: Metadata

What is Metadata

Metadata is defined as "structured information that describes, explains, locates, or otherwise makes it easier to retrieve, use, or manage an information resource. Metadata is often called data about data or information about information." (Understanding Metadata, National Information Standards Organization United States, 2004). 

Types of Metadata

Here is the metadata type table adapted from National Information Standards Organization United States.

Metadata Type Example Properties Primary

Descriptive metadata

Common fields which help users to discover online sources through searching and browsing

Title

Author

Subject

Genre

Publication date

Discovery

Display

Interoperability

Technical metadata

Fields which describe the information required to access the data

File type

File size

Creation date/time

Compression scheme

Interoperability

Digital object management

Preservation

Administrative Metadata - Preservation

Fields that facilitate the management of resources

Checksum

Preservation event

Interoperability

Digital object management

Preservation

Administrative Metadata - Rights

Fields which deal with intellectual property rights

Copyright status

License terms

Rights holder

Interoperability

Digital object management

Structural metadata

Fields which describe how different components of a set of associated data relate to one another

Sequence

Place in hierarchy

Navigation

Markup languages

Languages which integrate metadata and flags for other structural or semantic features within content

Paragraph

Heading List

Name

Date

Navigation

Interoperability

Introduction to Metadata

The following is a video created by EDINA, University of Edinburgh, explaining what metadata is.

Metadata Formats and Standards

Metadata standards/schemas may vary from discipline to discipline. Dublin Core is one of the most commonly-used generic metadata standards.

Simple Dublin Core involves 15 elements (optional & repeatable):

Title

Subject

Format

Date

Source

Identifier

Type

Description

Language

Rights

Publisher

Relation

Creator

Contributor

Coverage

Source: Research data management Libguide,The University of Queensland

Here are some useful resources for you to explore metadata schema in your research areas:

README File

A README file is intended to help ensure that your research data can be correctly interpreted and re-used by others. Here are some best practices in creating comprehensive README files.

  • Create a separate README file for each individual data file or a single README file for the dataset as a whole
  • Write your README document as a plain text file
  • Name your README file as "readme.xxx"

Here are some recommended contents for the README files of your research data. The table is adapted from Guide to writing "readme" style metadata, Cornell University Research Data Management Service Group and README guidance from Dryad.

General information

  • Title of the dataset
  • Names and Contact Information (i.e. PI, contributors, contact persons)
  • Date/Date range of data collection
  • Geographic location of data collection
  • Keywords
  • Language
  • Funding information
Data and file overview
  • Description of the file structure and relationship between data files
  • Short description of each data file and the relationship to the contents (i.e. tables, figures) of the related publications
  • Date that the file was created/updated (if any)
  • File format
  • Information specific to the particular data file
Sharing and access information
  • Licenses/Restriction information
  • Related publications/datasets (URLs)
  • Recommended citation
Methodological information
  • Methods for data collection/generation
  • Data processing steps
  • Any instrument-specific information needed to understand or interpret the data, e.g., details of any particular operating system/software required to make use of the data
  • Quality-assurance procedures (if applicable)