Documentation & Metadata

Data documentation, also known as metadata, helps you understand your data in detail, and also helps other researchers find, use, and properly cite your data.

Various metadata standards are available for particular file formats and disciplines. General guidelines are provided below. For more details, see materials from our workshop on file organization. For help in documenting your data, email

Important things to do while you collect or create your data

Things to document about your data

Name of the dataset or research project that produced it

Names and addresses of the organization or people who created the data

Number used to identify the data, even if it is just an internal project reference number

Key dates associated with the data, including project start and end date, data modification data release date, and time period covered by the data

Keywords or phrases describing the subject or content of the data

Organizations or agencies who funded the research

Any known intellectual property rights held for the data

Language(s) of the intellectual content of the resource, when applicable

Where the data relates to a physical location, record information about its spatial coverage

How the data was generated, including equipment or software used, experimental protocol, other things you might include in a lab notebook