Creating metadata

Metadata defined

In its most basic sense, metadata is information about data, and describes basic characteristics of the data, such as

easel with questions, image by One Way Stock (

  • Who created the data
  • What the data file contains
  • When the data were generated
  • Where the data were generated
  • Why the data were generated
  • How the data were generated

Metadata makes it easier for you and others to identify and reuse data correctly at a later date.

Data services staff are happy to help you devise a plan for documenting your research with metadata. Read more about our consulting services or contact us.

Part 1: A basic approach to metadata

Metadata refined

Suit & Tie, image by Jaclyn AulettaWell-structured metadata not only supports the long-term discovery and preservation of your research data, but allows for the aggregation and simultaneous searching of research data from tens or hundreds or thousands of researchers.

This is why domain-specific repositories typically require highly structured metadata with your data submissions: it enables highly granular searches on their aggregated content. This in turn makes your data easier to find.

To talk with us about preparing data for submission to a repository, see our Consulting page for details or contact us.

Part 2: Advanced metadata

Metadata tools

Swiss army knife, image by AJ Cann

Looking for a tool to help you with metadata creation? We've put together a short list of free tools that can do anything from help you select controlled vocabulary terms to assist with generating highly structured metadata. Some are spreadsheet plug-ins and some are stand-alone software. Check out the descriptions and then compare their features using our handy chart!