Updated November 2018 by Dave Van Kleeck
Metadata is information about data – information which may describe data’s provenance, contents, elements, formats, purposes, and more. Metadata is used to support discovery, interpretation, application, and preservation of data.
Formats: Data repositories usually require structured metadata, and may specify formats to use or elements to include. Following metadata best practices in your field will help colleagues access, understand, and repurpose your data. The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) provides information about discipline-specific metadata standards. General-purpose formats include the DataCite Metadata Schema, the Common European Research Information Format (CERIF), the Data Catalog Vocabulary (DCAT), the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI), and the Observations and Measurements schema for sampling features. The Libraries can be a resource for choosing and applying metadata formats.
Content: Describe the parameters, organization, and extent of your dataset. Use standardized terminology, and document these choices with a data dictionary or reference to an established vocabulary/ontology. These (and more) best practices are described in detail by the DataONE Organization. The Libraries can provide consultation and instruction on metadata best practices, and help devise a metadata plan for your projects.