Metadata is data that defines and describes the characteristics of other data, used to improve both business and technical understanding of data and data-related processes.

Metadata. (n.d.). In CASRAI Dictionary.

Many research communities have their own standards and practices for metadata and most data repositories plainly state the metadata requirements for data deposit. Metadata should contain a level of detail proportionate to the complexity of the research project. At a minimum, metadata will capture the following elements:

  • Title of the dataset or research project
  • Creator
  • Dates - start and end date of project, time period covered by data, modification dates, etc.
  • Subject or content of the data
  • File formats used to store the data
  • Methodology used to collect or create the data, including equipment or software used, experimental protocols, etc.
  • Access rights and restrictions associated with the data

Lamar Soutter Library. New England Collaborative Data Management Curriculum.

Metadata templates

Metadata directories

  • RDA Metadata directory: Lists metadata standards for: arts & humanities, engineering, physical sciences & mathematics, social & behavioral sciences, general research data
  • DDC Disciplinary metadata: Lists metadata standards for: biology, earth sciences, physical sciences, social sciences & humanities, general research data

Selected metadata standards and use cases

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