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Documentation and Metadata

Documentation is metadata 

Metadata refers to all the different types of description and documentation that are needed to understand the content, context, and characteristics of a research object.

Documentation is essential 

It tells the story of the work that went into the research

It provides context to those with whom you will collaborate or share work.

It communicates standards, codes, variable parameters, and details that will otherwise be forgotten.

It helps us find, discover, protect, and maintain the work

Ways we create Documentation 

You may already be creating documentation in some form: 

  • Notebooks and Field notes
  • Codebooks
  • ReadMe files
  • table of contents
  • instrument-generated files
  • protocols, etc….

The ReadMe File - A simple, functional approach

In the absence of disciplinary standards we recommend creating a read-me file that will fulfill basic documentation criteria.

Types of Metadata and Application to Research Data

For many, descriptive and structural metadata will be the most important elements to include in your initial documentation.

For more about Metadata and Metadata Types

What are standards?

Standards are consistent ways of defining activities such as measurements and naming schemes.

Standards guide disciplinary metadata creation practices.

Finding Standards 

Many disciplines have standards - you may wish to search the following directory if you are unsure.

Community Maintained Metadata Standards Directory

How do I know what I need and what to use? 

In the absence of community standards - describe the elements as though you were explaining them to a researcher outside of your discipline for the first time. 

One of the easiest ways to do this is to create a ReadMe file.