What is metadata?
In the context of research data management, metadata is data describing your dataset(s). Metadata is usually structured using recognised standards or schemas and may include:
- Keywords (user-defined or from a controlled vocabulary which should be clearly identified if used)
- Other discipline-specific data elements
Administrative metadata can also be used to better manage your data, and may include:
- Creation dates
- Modification dates
- File formats used
- Access restrictions
What metadata is required?
The metadata you need to collect and store will depend on the anticipated needs of your intended audience, as well as the destination of your data after the completion of the project. For example, if you plan to deposit your data in La Trobe University’s online repository (or an external repository), you should familiarise yourself with the metadata requirements of that repository to ensure that your data is adequately described from the start of the project.
Where will the metadata be located?
Metadata can be stored within the data object itself (e.g. in the file properties), or in an external system or database that describes the dataset. Some metadata stored within the object such as the date of creation/modification are often generated automatically. This metadata travels with the file whenever it is moved from one location to another and is useful for searching within the environment of your personal computer, but it can be difficult or impossible to extract so it doesn’t integrate well with external systems. Metadata stored within an external database is generally more useful, but it will depend on the system chosen.
Who will be responsible for the metadata?
While some metadata is automatically generated, most metadata will need to be generated and maintained by a person or group of people. If you wish to do this yourself, you will need to allow an appropriate amount of time for this task.