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Research Data Management


Metadata means data about data. It is the information that describes your data, and using an established metadata scheme makes the data easier to find and understand. 

The basic elements to consider are: 

  • Title
  • Creator (Principal Investigators)
  • Date Created (also versions)
  • Format
  • Subject
  • Unique Identifier (preferably a DOI)
  • Description of the specific data resource
  • Coverage of the data (spatial or temporal)
  • Publishing organization
  • Type of resource
  • Rights (ethics/legal/etc.)
  • Funding or Granting Agency

Metadata Standards

Metadata standards or schemas consist of specific elements used to describe or document your data. Many disciplines have established metadata standards, and some data repositories have their own standards. You may find one listed below might be exactly what you need to document your data. If there is not a standard already in place for your data, there are several general purpose schemas that you can adapt to your needs. Contact us with questions about the metadata standards used in your discipline.

                                 Metadata concept map, including categorizes such as general, humanities, archives/repositories, social science, and sciences.

Creative Commons License
Metadata Concept Map by Amanda Tarbet is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Standard examples: 

General: Dublin Core | MODS
Social Science: DDI
Humanities: TEI | VRA
Sciences: Darwin Core | ITIS | EML | DIF | SEED | FGDC | ISO 19115

Additonal Standards:

The UK's Digital Curation Centre (DCC) maintains a useful inventory of discipline-specific metadata standards.


A README file is a plain text file that includes descriptive information and is commonly attached as a descriptive companion to other files. It is a supplementary document that exists to explain the contents of the main files to the users (data, terms, etc.). It is useful to create and include a README file to ensure that your data is understood. 

There are no standards for writing a README text file, but it is recommended to include: 

  • Title
  • Principle Investigator(s)
  • Dates/Locations of data collection
  • Keywords
  • Language
  • Funding
  • Descriptions of every folder, file, format, data collection method, instruments, etc. 
  • Definitions
  • People involved
  • Recommended citation

For more information about writing README files for data, Cornell University has a comprehensive guide