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Research Data: Metadata

What is Metadata?

Metadata is "data about data" or information that can be used to describe other files. The name of an author, the date something was created, and where it was published are all examples of metadata.

Metadata Standards

Metadata Resources

Metadata is 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. Metadata is the data that you use to describe and document the research data that you have collected.

Types of Metadata

Structural Metadata is used primarily for storage of objects in a repository and for presentation. It is about the design and specification of data structures and is more properly called "data about the containers of data". Structural metadata facilitates navigation and presentation of electronic resources.

  • provides information about the internal structure of resources including page, section, chapter numbering, indexes, and table of contents
  • describes relationship among materials (e.g., photograph B was included in manuscript A)
  • binds the related files and scripts (e.g., File A is the JPEG format of the archival image File B)

Descriptive Metadata is used for discovery of objects. It is about individual instances of application data, the data content. It is "data about data content" or "content about content" thus metacontent.

  • at the local (system) level to enable searching and retrieving (e.g., searching an image collection to find paintings of animals) 
  • at the Web-level, enables users to discover resources (e.g., search the Web to find digitized collections of poetry).

Administrative Metadata is used for managing and preserving objects in the repository.Administrative Metadata facilitates both short-term and long-term management and processing of digital collections by including

  • technical data on how the object was created and quality control 
  • rights management, access control and use requirements for specific data 
  • preservation action information performed on data

Metadata for Science, Research, Education and Technology

A metadata standard or schema is a set group of elements that have been standardized for a particular field. Some scientific disciplines already have established metadata standards for data sets. Additionally, some data repositories also have their own standards. One of the standards listed below might be exactly what you need to document your data. If there is not a standard already in place for your data, there are several general purpose schemas that you can adapt to your needs. Your subject specialist will be familiar with the metadata standards used in your discipline.


Creative Commons License
Metadata Concept Map by Amanda Tarbet is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

General: Dublin Core | MODS
Social Science: DDI
Humanities: TEI | VRA
Sciences: Darwin Core | ITIS | EML | DIF | SEED | FGDC | ISO 19115 

Additonal Standards:

And visit Andrei Lopatenko's Resource Guide to Metadata for Science, Research, Education, and Technology for additional very specific metadata schemas.

YouTube - Metadata Tutorial

Beyond MARC: Metadata Standards for Digital Resources /  Bruce Fulton

Introductory lecture for incoming students in library and archival study programs on XML metadata standards. Included are Dublin Core, METS, MODS, EAD, PREMIS ONIX and RSS with demonstrations of OAI-PMH metadata harvesting. Concludes with the introduction of RDF, Ontologies and the Semantic Web. Published on Nov 21, 2012