Documentation and Metadata

Metadata is the "data" that describes your research data by summarizing key information related to its production and nature. Author, date created, and study title are very basic examples. The purpose of metadata is to ensure that the data remains interpretable for the researcher, colleagues, or the public, making working with it easier. Best practices recommend that metadata is as complete and descriptive as possible in order to optimize re-usability. Effective metadata through increased interpretability and re-use increases citation of the original research project. 

There exist several different metadata standards. Among these Dublin Core is widely accepted as the baseline metadata standard, which can be adopted fairly easily with a generator.

Data Curation Commons maintains an archive of discipline-specific metadata standards.

How can the Library Help?

Should you have any questions that are not covered in the relevant Frequently Asked Questions section or require any assistance with documentation and metadata please email the McMaster University Library Maps/Data/GIS Department would be pleased to assist you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is metadata?

Metadata is documentation that describes research data and often the associated study. An example of fairly intensive metadata can be found here.

What is the importance of metadata?

Metadata is essential to interpreting research data because it provides experimental context and details to end users.

What are common metadata elements?

Common metadata elements include common publication details such as author, description, the year created, in addition to information about the data such as its format, source, and coverage.

More FAQs