By most accounts, creating metadata is right up there with organizing your garage. It can be a chore, but it doesn’t have to be.

At UGRC, we have decided to make the process more conversational. In other words, instead of looking at a long list of metadata requirements, we thought it would be easier to talk about the data. This is our solution to metadata procrastination.

We have distilled the basic elements of metadata into a few approachable questions. If you can answer these simple questions about your data, then you’re officially on your way to good metadata.

Can you answer these questions about your data?

Summarize your Data
  • What is this dataset?
  • What is the purpose of this dataset?
Describe your Data
  • What does this dataset represent?
    • ex: road centerlines represent the centerline of a physical road
  • How was this dataset created?
    • ex: digitized, GPS, etc.
  • How reliable and accurate is the dataset?
    • ex: survey-grade, mapping-grade, etc.
  • What is the general update schedule for this dataset?
    • ex: monthly, yearly, as needed, etc.
  • Are there any warnings or limitations on the data?
    • ex: don’t use parcels as a legal boundary depiction
    • ex: don’t use parcels as a complete dataset for geocoding
    • ex: don’t use zip codes for demographic generalization
  • Are there any common misconceptions or assumptions about this data that should be further explained?
    • ex: highway milepost markers are not an accurate length measurement. If a highway is lengthened or shortened, the markers are not adjusted.
Establish Contact Info
  • Who created this dataset?
  • What is the best point of contact for this dataset?
    • if someone had further questions or would like to get involved, who should they contact?

Your answers to these questions can be plugged into the basic metadata elements (discussed below). It’s that simple - answer a few questions, transfer your responses, and voilà, you officially have informative, standardized metadata.

Note: If you contribute data to Utah’s State Geographic Information Database (SGID), we encourage you to use our metadata form. It’s a great way to update your metadata and make it more discoverable. The form covers all the questions above -and best of all- after you submit your responses, your portion of the process is done! UGRC, in collaboration with the DTS editor, will handle the remaining details.

The above questions are designed to work with the ESRI Item Description metadata style. We have found this style to be well-balanced for creating useful, as well as achievable, metadata.

Let’s take a closer look at the basic elements of SGID metadata. We like to think of these as our minimum requirements.

Basic SGID Metadata


The title should match the dataset name. If it’s a statewide dataset, the title should begin with the word “Utah”.

example: Utah County Boundaries


Tags are included in data searches, so at minimum, each SGID dataset should include the stewarding agency (ie: UGRC), SGID, and the appropriate ISO category tag. We also recommend adding any additional, relevant tags that might help with data discoverability. However, there is no need to include words that are contained in the layer’s title (these will be omitted).

All words in tags should be title-cased except for articles (“of”, “the”, “and”, etc.) or abbreviations. Each tag should be separated by a comma. Please refer to Using tags effectively for more ideas and information.

example: UGRC, SGID, Recreation, Paths, Biking, Hiking, Horseback Riding


The summary should summarize the description in approximately 2 to 3 sentences.

The summary should address the questions presented above in the summarize your data section.


The Description is a more in-depth version of the summary and it should stand on its own. The description should expand on the summary. This is important, particularly, in the event that the summary is missing in the metadata (which is currently the case with Open Data datasets).

The first line of the description should be a date, indicating the last update.

This section should also contain a link to the corresponding data page

Additionally, the description should address the questions presented above in the describe your data section.

Credits (as in the source of the data)

This should cover who created the dataset and how you can get in contact with them.

The credits should address the questions presented above in the establish contact info section.

Use Limitations

This section covers limitation and licensing on the data.

The language presented here is for reference only and is populated automatically via our Sweeper project.

The data herein, including but not limited to geographic data, tabular data, analytical data, electronic data structures or files, are provided “as is” without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied, or statutory, including, but not limited to, the implied warranties or merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. The entire risk as to the quality and performance of the data is assumed by the user. Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.