Metadata describes important information about a data set, such as its content and quality, information about how the files were created and stored, and intellectual property rights and access conditions. Appropriate metadata allows researchers to find, use, and cite your data.
Standards are formal expressions of metadata elements, specifiying what information is appropriate for certain kinds of data and how it should be documented. Some standards are generic, such as Dublin Core (common in bibliographic settings); others are relevant to specific disciplines, such as Darwin Core (for biological sciences), TEI (for textual materials), DDI (for social sciences).
See, UMass Amherst Libraries' Introduction to Metadata.
At a minimum, you should provide enough information about a data set so that it can be cited, such as:
|Creator||The main producer of the data or authors of publication where the data can be found.
|Title||The name by which the data set is known.|
|Publisher||The holder of the data.|
|Publication Year||The year the data was made available.|
|Identifier||The unique identifier for the data.|
For more information about Data Citation, see DataCite.
To provide enough information to make your data set discoverable and useful, MIT Libraries' has general recommendations for data sets of any discipline, see below. Consider all the information that you would require in order to correctly identify, interpret, or reuse the data set and document that information.
|Title||The title of the data set.|
|Creator||Name of the person, people, or center that created the data set.|
|Identifier||A unique number used to identify the data set.|
|Subject||A description of or keywords describing the content of the data set.|
|Dates||Key dates associated with the data (ie: date recorded).|
A simple way to record metadata for a data set is to create a README.txt file that includes all the metadata that you need to correctly identify and interpret the file.
These examples of structured metadata from the Australian National Data Service are rendered as html files:
Last Edited: 4 December 2012