Research Data Guide

Managing research data

Shortly about documentation and metadata

Documentation helps

  • you to remember the details later
  • helps others understand your research
  • verify research findings
  • replicate results

Documentation with metadata is a must for data access and re-use.

Metadata is  structured  and machine readable data about data. Any data file in any format should have metadata fields as without metadata  and documentation data sets are meaningless.

Metadata can broadly be broken into e.g.

  • Descriptive metadata: Enables indexing, discovery and retrieval (e.g. title, subject, keywords)
  • Technical metadata: Describes how a dataset was produced, stuctured and how it should be used
  • Administrative  metadata: Enables access and management of data (e.g. rights, timestamp of transaction)
  • Structural (e.g. data directory)

The main purpose of metadata is to improve finding of research data and therefore it should be standardized, structured and machine and human readable. Metadata should be collected during the research process and the responsible person for metadata is the researcher.

Metadata is supplemented with documention e.g.

  • laboratory diaries, code books, field notes, questionnaires
  • documentation of settings and calibrations of instruments
  • description about research method

Documentation is done in different levels like research project (e.g. methodology), file level  (e.g. relationships between files)  and variable/item level (e.g. how variable was generated). Metadata is part of documentation.

Discipline specific standards

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Metadata sources

Metadata standards

  • Dublin Core metadata standard: Originally fifteen generic, widely used elements (Creator, Contributor, Publisher, Title, Date, Language, Format, Subject, Description, Identifier, Relation, Source, Type, Coverage, and Rights)

  • DataCite Metadata Schema: Closely connected to the DOI system - is a list of core metadata properties chosen for the identification of a resource. Consist e.g. relation types to describe relations between RD (e.g. supplement to, version, part of, identical to etc.)

Vocabularies, ontologies and classifications

  • ELSST - a multilingual thesaurus

  • Finto: Finnish service for the publication and utilization of vocabularies, ontologies and classifications.

General standards