Metadata & Documentation

What is metadata

Metadata may be described as data about data: a set of data that describes and gives information about other data.

Metadata normally contains information that describes the data and helps to organize, find and understand data.

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Metadata Tools

A number of metadata tools are available and can be used for the creation of metadata. Some of these tools help you to select controlled vocabularies to include in your documentation, while others combine that functionality with a fully supported metadata schema.


Dublin Core Metadata Generator:

Please also see List of Metadata Tools (DCC):

Metadata Standards

There are a number of metadata standards which address the needs of particular user communities

For more information on what metadata standards are, use the link below:


DCC List of Metadata Standards

Provides a full linked list of metadata standards

Metadata vs Documentation

Assigning metadata means describing a dataset in such a way that it can be read by computers, e.g. to facilitate the search function on the website of a data repository. Besides this, the dataset is accompanied by documentation, i.e. information meant to be read by humans.

The key distinction between metadata and documentation is that metadata, in the standard sense of "data about data," formally describes various key attributes of each data element or collection of elements, while documentation makes reference to data in the context of their use in specific systems, applications, settings. Documentation also includes ancillary materials (e.g., field notes) from which metadata can be derived.

Source: Digital Preservation Coalition;

Disciplinary Metadata

Data curators, and increasingly researchers, know that good metadata is key for research data access and re-use, figuring out precisely what metadata to capture and how to capture it is a complex task. Fortunately, many academic disciplines have supported initiatives to formalize the metadata specifications the community deems to be required for data re-use.

See the link below: