What is Metadata?

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What is metadata and why is it important to document?

Think about the last time you searched Google. That search started with the metadata you had in your mind about something you wanted to find. You may have begun with a word, phrase, place name, or something else. The possibilities for describing things seem endless. Certainly, metadata schema can be simple or complex, but they all have some things in common. Metadata can be explained in a few ways:

  • Data that provide information about other data.
  • Metadata summarizes basic data information, making finding & working with particular instances of data easier.
  • Metadata can be created manually to be more accurate, or automatically and contain more basic information.

In short, metadata is important. If we use analogies, we can think of metadata as references to data.

Examples of information (this is not a comprehensive list) contained within metadata are: creation date of the data, contact information, source agency, map projection and coordinate system, scale, error, explanation of symbology and attributes, data dictionary, data restrictions, and licensing. Essentially, metadata is a description of the data set that helps the user understand the context of the data.

Sources: Gislounge, Opendatasoft

 

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