What is Metadata?
There are two types of metadata;
- Structural metadata – Design and specification of data structures.
- Descriptive metadata - Individual instances of application data or data content.
As information has become primarily digitized, metadata is used to describe digital data. With the ability to describe the contents and context of data files, the original data files become much more useful. A webpage may include metadata which specifies what language it is written in, which tools were used to create it, and where to go for more on the subject. This automatically improves the experience of users.
Example: Wikipedia encourages the use of metadata by asking editors to add category names to articles, and also to include information with citations such as title, source and access date.
The main purpose of metadata is to facilitate in the discovery of relevant information. Metadata also helps organize electronic resources, provides digital identification and helps support archiving and preservation of the resource. Metadata assists in resource discovery by allowing resources to be found by relevant criteria, identifying resources, bringing resources together, distinguishing dissimilar resources, and giving location information.
Metadata is defined as the data providing information about one or more aspects of the data, such as:
- Means of creation of the data.
- Purpose of the data.
- Time and date of creation.
- Creator or author of the data.
- Location on a computer network where the data was created.
- Standards used.
Indexing is the process of capturing relevant metadata associated with your records. Through indexing records with metadata, retrieval is made easier and metadata is used for the later management of these records. Policies and guidelines will need to be developed (For example, should you company capture metadata for all documents, or should you just capture metadata for those documents that you declare as records. You will also need to define what metadata elements should be captured for different types of records.
More and more large organizations are developing their own collection of metadata elements. When the staff at a company know the particular metadata that has been used when the records were captured, they will know the metadata to use to retrieve the records they need.
The process of capturing the metadata can be manual or automatic, and the metadata itself can be captured from information from a variety of sources. (For example when using standard desktop applications such as Microsoft Office, the electronic records management (ERM) system may capture useful information about the document from the document properties.
Other sources of metadata include:
- The classification scheme for retention information.
- The ERM system itself for metadata such as the ‘unique record number’.
- The underlying operating system for information such as ate and time of capture.
Many records will be evidence of a business activity or transaction, so it’s important to capture the relevant metadata relating to:
- The people involved in the activity or transaction.
- The nature of the activity or transaction itself.
- The outcome of the activity or transaction.
- Reference to any other important relate records.
A crucial part of the indexing process is to provide an audit trail of what has happened to a record over its lifecycle. The following metadata should be captured during the indexing process:
- The unique identifier – this is usually a unique number assigned to the record by the ERM system.
- The date and time of capture of the record.
- The title f the record.
- The author of the record. This may be one person or organization, such as a company or team. (Sometimes called the author).
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