Metadata is essentially data about data. It is essential if data is interoperable as computers need to share basic metadata to communicate.


  1. Step One: when preparing to describe your resources, there are several questions that you will want to consider - what are you describing? what kind of information do you want to record?

    Are you describing a physical object, a digital object, a digital representation of a physical object? Who is my audience? What information is needed to identify the resource? What information is needed to properly contextualize it? How do I want people to find it or interact with it? How do I expect them to search for or discover it? How do I expect to use it? How do I expect others to use it now and in the future? What information is required to communicate who owns it, who can use it, and to what extent?

  2. Step Two: as you begin to answer the questions presented in Step One, list out the information that you would like to include as data points, e.g., title, subject, access rights, etc. For example, if you are wanting to overlay images onto a map, you will want to record coordinate data. This is your metadata wish list.
  3. Step Three: consider the descriptive information or metadata that you may already have: Which elements or what kind of information is recorded or represented there? Is information missing about your resources? Is there information that would be challenging to find or create?
  4. Step Four: find your "golden minimum." Determine what information is essential to facilitate discovery, identification, and to give sufficient context, but no more. What exactly is the golden minimum in the space of your project depends on your project goals and available resources.
  5. Step Five: finalise your list of data points. Choose to codify this list as your own metadata schema or map it to an existing schema, such as Dublin Core.
  6. Step Six: decide whether you want to make use of data value standards (controlled vocabularies, thesauri, encoding or formatting standards). If so, which standards would apply to which fields? Alternatively, you can create your own data value standards, such as a subject vocabulary specific to your topic, or collection of resources or a controlled list of names. Document your decisions as your best practices.

The Dublin Core™ Metadata Element Set is a vocabulary of fifteen properties for use in resource description. The name "Dublin" is due to its origin at a 1995 invitational workshop in Dublin, Ohio; "core" because its elements are broad and generic, usable for describing a wide range of resources.

The Dublin Core Metadata Element Set is one of the simplest and most widely used metadata schema. Originally developed to describe web resources, Dublin Core has been used to describe a variety of physical and digital resources.

Dublin Core is comprised of 15 “core” metadata elements; whereas the "qualified" Dublin Core set includes additional metadata elements to provide for greater specificity and granularity.

Dublin Core ElementUsePossible Data Value Standards
Title A name given to the resource.  


The topic of the resource.

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)


An account of the resource.



An entity primarily responsible for making the resource.

Library of Congress Name Authority File (LCNAF)


An entity responsible for making the resource available.



An entity responsible for making contributions to the resource.

Library of Congress Name Authority File (LCNAF)


A point or period associated with an event in the lifecycle of the resource.



The nature or genre of the resource.

DCMI Type Vocabulary


The file format, physical medium, or dimensions of the resource.

Internet Media Types (MIME)


An unambiguous reference to the resource within a given context.



A related resource from which the described resource is derived.



A language of the resource.

ISO 639


A related resource.



The spatial or temporal topic of the resource, the spatial applicability of the resource, or the jurisdiction under which the resource is relevant.

Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN)


Information about rights held in and over the resource.


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