Metadata is the descriptive information that will enable other researchers to discover your data and initially determine whether it will be of use. Required information will vary across scientific fields and repositories. The following list provides a minimal amount of information that will likely be sufficient in most cases. Note that some of this information may be provided in supplemental documentation.

General Information

  • dataset/project title
  • dataset creator (primary contact person) & university affiliation
  • keywords
  • funding agencies/period
  • copyright
  • access restrictions, if any
  • publication citations, at least the initial publication (optional)

Data Characteristics

  • data sources (user-generated, citations of compilation sources)
  • coverage (if applicable, include date range & geographic range; if sample, note the sample site)
  • unit of analysis (likely located in dataset documentation)
  • date of compilation
  • date of last update

Archive Characteristics

  • file formats (Stata, Excel, tab delimited text, TIFF images, WAV audio, etc.)
  • count of files
  • list of files (or link to document that contains list)
  • supporting documentation, list of items, file names
  • note whether the archive will be updated