An essential part of sharing data is helping people understand what it is and where it came from. However, 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.

We want 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 just talk about the data. This is our solution to metadata procrastination.

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

Just answer these questions about your data

Summarize your Data
  • What is this dataset?
  • What is its purpose?
Describe your Data
  • What does this dataset represent?
    • ex: Road centerlines represent physical roads
  • How was it created?
    • ex: Digitized, GPS, etc.
  • How reliable and accurate is it?
    • ex: Survey-grade, mapping-grade, crayon-grade, etc.
  • What is its general update schedule?
    • 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 these 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?
    • If someone had further questions or would like to get involved, who should they contact?

You can plug your answers to these questions straight into the basic metadata elements. 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.

These questions are designed to work with the ESRI Item Description metadata style. This style strikes a pragmatic balance between being comprehensive and being easy to use.