Penn State Data Management Plan Tutorial

2.4 Summary

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In this part, you learned the meaning of "metadata" and its important role in the documentation of data. In the DMP, in addition to noting types and formats the data will take, consider providing examples of the information you will capture about your data (e.g., information about location, instrumentation, rights and access, etc.). Consult resources such as the Digital Curation Centre's disciplinary standards list to find out what standards for describing data your research community follows.

One common metadata schema that is discipline agnostic is the Dublin Core metadata element set. It's strongly advised to consult a metadata librarian, who can assist you in data description. A metadata librarian can also provide guidance on approaches to recording metadata, such as how to name files. A detail such as file naming convention is not necessary to include in a DMP, but you and your project team should decide as early as possible what conventions the team will follow for naming files.

Another resource worthwhile checking out are data repository indexes, such as DataBib, which you can use to find a repository suitable for your data when your project is ready to deposit them. Seeking out an appropriate repository ahead of time and learning about its requirements can inform how you describe your data.

Check Your Understanding

You are collecting survey data and have a field in your data set for geographic location. Some of your responses include both city and state; others include only the country; some did not respond at all. You've developed a codebook to describe how you've chosen to record this and other data from your survey. Is it appropriate to include the codebook in your metadata?

(a) Yes
(b) No

test-bulbClick for answer.

ANSWER: (a) Yes. Codebooks are considered part of the metadata, since they document and describe aspects of the data you have collected. Without a codebook, users of your data, such as other researchers, will not be able to understand your data readily, or at all, making reuse of the data and the ability to build on it highly unlikely. So, if you have developed a codebook as part of documenting your research data, then by all means include it as part of the metadata for your data.