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Open Data - Getting Started

Guide for faculty on Open Data resources, research data management, and library assistance.

Data Documentation (Metadata Standards)

Why document data?

  • Helps you find and reuse your own data
  • Helps you easily share data with colleagues
  • Helps others to discover, reuse, and cite your data

There are a variety of data documentation standards and tools.

Visit this Data Curation Centre list of metadata standards to find standards used by your discipline.


New to data documentation? Data Documentation Initiative (DDI) is a great place to start.

Creating Metadata

Find out more about metadata standards and applying rich metadata to help make your data reusable by others.
Types of metadata to consider:

  • Administrative Metadata - context: the who, what, why, where, and how of the data creation; also access and rights management
  • Descriptive Metadata - aids identification and discovery at the data collection level; helps others combine and reuse at the data level
  • Structural Metadata - how objects relate to each other; arrangement of file structure

Getting started with metadata:

Digging deeper:

ICPSR 101: What are Metadata (and why are they so important)?: https://youtu.be/-4_MFhi4GpU

File Naming, Organization, and Versioning

File format considerations:

  • best format for data creation, analysis, sharing (these may not all be the same)
  • best formats for long-term use or conversion (open vs. proprietary)
  • file quality (lossy vs. lossless)

Save time! --Plan for file naming, organization, and versioning in advance:

Library Assistance

Librarians can help with best practices in metadata and data organization:

  • Teaching good documentation and description of data, especially as a means to support discovery, understandability and re-use by others, or by the researcher(s) themselves in the future
  • Providing guidance on documenting and describing data taking disciplinary and community practices into account   
  • Assisting in managing and organizing data and in choosing file formats for long term access
  • Identifying tools or resources that may assist researchers in organizing and managing data

(Adapted and modified from University of Michigan Library, Research Data Services: https://www.lib.umich.edu/research-data-services)