Throughout the data lifecycle process, documentation must be updated to reflect actions taken upon the data. This includes acquisition, processing, and analysis, but may touch upon any stage of the lifecycle. Updated and complete metadata are critical to maintaining data quality.
Metadata describe information about a dataset, including who, what, where, when, why, and how, so that it can be understood, re-used, and integrated with other datasets. Metadata records follow a standard format to enable interoperability.Learn more
A data dictionary is used to catalog and communicate the structure and content of data, and provides meaningful descriptions for individually named data objects.Learn more
Use of terms from a thesaurus can make your data more easily discoverable. Keywords are useful for defining shared context or meaning within and across domains of science.Learn more
What the U.S. Geological Survey Manual Requires:
The USGS Manual Chapter 502.2 - Fundamental Science Practices: Planning and Conducting Data Collection and Research discusses the requirements for data documentation:
"Documentation: Data collected for publication in databases or information products, regardless of the manner in which they are published (such as USGS reports, journal articles, and Web pages), must be documented to describe the methods or techniques used to collect, process, and analyze data (including computer modeling software and tools produced by USGS); the structure of the output; description of accuracy and precision; standards for metadata; and methods of quality assurance."
"Standard USGS methods are employed for distinct research activities that are conducted on a frequent or ongoing basis and for types of data that are produced in large quantities. Methods must be documented to describe the processes used and the quality-assurance procedures applied."
The USGS Manual Chapter 502.4 - Fundamental Science Practices: Review, Approval, and Release of Information Products covers the documentation of methodology:
"Methods used to collect data and produce results must be defensible and adequately documented."