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.
|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.
|Names and addresses of the organization or people who created the data
|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.
|Keywords or phrases describing the subject or content of the data
|Organizations or agencies who funded the research
|Any known intellectual property rights held for the data
|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.”
|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.
|Where and how your data can be accessed by other researchers
|Language(s) of the intellectual content of the resource, when applicable
|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
|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.
|Where the data relates to a physical location, record information about its spatial coverage
|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.
|How the data was generated, including equipment or software used, experimental protocol, other things one might include in a lab notebook
|Along the way, record any information on how the data has been altered or processed
|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', 'stone.mov')
|Format(s) of the data, e.g. FITS, SPSS, HTML, JPEG, and any software required to read the data
|Organization of the data file(s) and the layout of the variables, when applicable
|List of variables in the data files, when applicable
|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')
|Date/time stamp for each file, and use a separate ID for each version
|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.
|Ecological Metadata Language (EML) is a metadata specification developed by the ecology discipline and for the ecology discipline.
|Social, Behavioral, and Economic Science data
|"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
|The VRA Core is a data standard for the description of works of visual culture as well as the images that document them.
|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
|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
|The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) is a consortium which collectively develops and maintains a standard for the representation of texts in digital form.
|The Music Encoding Initiative (MEI) is a community-driven effort to create a commonly-accepted, digital, symbolic representation of music notation documents.