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Managing your data


Metadata, or data about data, can be thought of as those annotations that give your data or files meaning.  For data to be discoverable, understandable, preserved, and potentially reused, these annotations are integral. 

If an appropriate metadata standard does not exist for your field, or if you would prefer to simplify your annotations, the following fields should be considered the minimal "best practices" metadata needed.  This documentation file should be kept as a txt or rft file with your data.

Information compiled from WUSTL Digital Library Gateway and MIT.

Main Title The name of the data or associated research project. A main title must be specified. If the original work is untitled, a title should be derived. The main title may include additional information (usually bracketed), if such information is useful in distinguishing the work from others.
Author/Creator Names and addresses of the organization or people who created the data
Identifier A name or code for each resource which is unique within your project; "unknown" is not an option. Tips: Follow a consistent naming scheme and document that scheme; filenames should reflect the identifiers.
Subject Keywords or phrases describing the subject or content of the data
Funders Organizations or agencies who funded the research
Copyright Any known intellectual property rights held for the data
Copyright statement A less formal, more flexible space for a project to declare whatever information is pertinent regarding copyright, public domain, access, restriction on the work, etc. A description explaining whether the digital material is available for use to public, WU-only, or restricted; is required.

“Copyright is owned by Washington University and is available for use by the public. Preferred citation is Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.”
“The image is password protected and can only be used by students enrolled in history class.”
“The image can be used in classrooms and other educational institutions free of charge under the fair use doctrine. All other uses are governed by copyright laws and have certain restrictions. Permission for use is required from the copyright owner. Please contact the film archive for more information.”
Digital responsibility    The person(s) responsible for the digital production of a text, edition, recording, or series, where the specialized element for author/creator(s) etc. does not suffice.
Access information Where and how your data can be accessed by other researchers
Language Language(s) of the intellectual content of the resource, when applicable
Dates Key dates associated with the data, including: project start and end date; release date; time period covered by the data; and other dates associated with the data lifespan, e.g., maintenance cycle, update schedule
Digital date    When a work is born-digital, the digital date records the day the file was created, or when the file was last updated/modified, which ever best represents the work in its current form. In some cases, the DATE and DIGITAL DATE for born-digital works may be the same date.
Location Where the data relates to a physical location, record information about its spatial coverage
Original medium    If your digital object was not "born-digital" be sure to include a statement on it's original physical form.  Examples: book, manuscript, CD, photograph, painting, map, film/video.
Methodology How the data was generated, including equipment or software used, experimental protocol, other things one might include in a lab notebook
Data processing Along the way, record any information on how the data has been altered or processed
Sources Citations to material for data derived from other sources, including details of where the source data is held and how it was accessed
List of file names List of all data files associated with the project, with their names and file extensions (e.g. 'NWPalaceTR.WRL', '')
File Formats Format(s) of the data, e.g. FITS, SPSS, HTML, JPEG, and any software required to read the data
File structure Organization of the data file(s) and the layout of the variables, when applicable
Variable list List of variables in the data files, when applicable
Code lists Explanation of codes or abbreviations used in either the file names or the variables in the data files (e.g. '999 indicates a missing value in the data')
Versions Date/time stamp for each file, and use a separate ID for each version
Checksums To test if your file has changed over time

In many instances, discipline specific metadata standards exist for researchers to describe their data. These standards function to ensure that metadata is consistent among researchers, which facilitates sharing, reuse, and data preservation. A few of the most prominent discipline specific standards are available below.



Ecology  EML Ecological Metadata Language (EML) is a metadata specification developed by the ecology discipline and for the ecology discipline.
Social, Behavioral, and Economic Science data DDI "The Data Documentation Initiative (DDI) is an effort to create an international standard for describing data from the social, behavioral, and economic sciences. DDI metadata accompanies and enables data conceptualization, collection, processing, distribution, discovery, analysis, repurposing, and archiving."
Visual Resources Association     VRA Core The VRA Core is a data standard for the description of works of visual culture as well as the images that document them.
Geography/GIS CSDGM Maintained by the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) this standard promotes the coordinated development, use, sharing, and dissemination of geographic data.
Categories for the Description of Works of Art CDWA Guidelines for the description of art objects and images, including a discussion of issues involved in building art information systems.

Humanities, social sciences, and linguistics

TEI      The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) is a consortium which collectively develops and maintains a standard for the representation of texts in digital form.
Music MEI    The Music Encoding Initiative (MEI) is a community-driven effort to create a commonly-accepted, digital, symbolic representation of music notation documents.