What is metadata and why does it matter?

Metadata is often defined as “data about data”. From a more practical perspective, metadata is structured statements about resources or “things”. These statements allow us to describe, explain, find, maintain, and use the “things” we care about. Metadata can be as simple as a file name or your UR NetID or as complex as your profile information in HRMS or the database record for an article.  You interact with and rely on metadata to do your work every day. It allows you to search through your computer to find a specific file or to locate a book for your research. Metadata allows you to understand how the research data in front of you were gathered or constructed so you can use or add to that body of work.

Understanding the general principles of metadata can provide a new way to look at your work and the tools you use to accomplish your goals. To learn more about metadata, we’ve created a presentation that explains what metadata is and why it matters to you. To start thinking about the purpose of metadata and the payoff of good metadata practice, consider Villanova University’s take on Metadata and Its Importance in a Data Driven World.

We highly recommend Jennifer Riley’s Understanding Metadata: What is Metadata, and What is it For?: A Primer  which includes numerous examples of metadata work, as well as The Getty’s Introduction to Metadata which provides an excellent overview of metadata standards, tools, and best practices.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions.


Metadata Resources and Standards