Metadata for Data Management: A Tutorial

Why do I need metadata?

Metadata is created and collected because it enables and improves use of that data.

Good metadata can make up for human fallibilities. People forget and misplace things, and leave research projects taking their knowledge of the research methodology and the data with them. Metadata ensures that we will be able find data, use data, and preserve and re-use data in the future.

  • Finding Data: Metadata makes it much easier to find relevant data. Most searches are done using text (like a Google search), so formats like audio, images, and video are limited unless text metadata is available. Metadata also makes text documents easier to find because it explains exactly what the document is about.
  • Using Data: To use a dataset, researchers need to understand how the data is structured, definitions of terms used, how it was collected, and how it should be read.
  • Re-using Data: Researchers often want to re-use data collected for another project for their own project. The data still needs to be found and used, but often at a higher level of trust and understanding. Re-using data often requires careful preservation and documentation of the metadata.

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