What is metadata?

Metadata is data that summarises basic information about data. For example:  

  • Who created the data. 

  • What the data file contains. 

  • When the data were generated. 

  • Where the data were generated. 

  • Why the data were generated. 

  • How the data were generated. 

  • The data’s Information Security Classification. 

In addition, if you are an Information Creator, you should ensure the metadata you enter is meaningful. This is especially pertinent in data-entry to software applications.   

Things to think about are: 

  • Entering fields consistently. For example, the format of an address. 

  • Entering the appropriate content into required fields. For example, don’t dummy-fill a field, or leave a required field empty. 

  • How do you avoid duplication of data? Or ensure that it is entered consistently across systems? 

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Why appropriate metadata is important

Metadata helps locate resources, and provides context to understand information’s value. Benefits of metadata include: 

  • It enables organisation, indexing, discovery, access, analysis, and use of data and information. 

  • It enables software applications to navigate data. 

  • It can improve search engine results and rankings. 

  • Quality metadata can drastically help in research activities (searching and retrieving beneficial information) 

  • It enables data to be properly interpreted, as relevant context is available. It provides context for non-textual content that isn’t readily processed by applications (e.g. images, videos). 

  • It means the data can be understood now and in the future. 

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