Data Management

Describe (Metadata/Documentation)

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 Creation

Metadata Creation

Metadata describe information about data, including who, what, where, when, why, and how, so that they can be understood, re-used, and integrated with other data. Metadata records follow a standard format to enable interoperability.

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Data Dictionaries

Data Dictionaries

A data dictionary is used to catalog and communicate the structure and content of data, and provides meaningful descriptions for individually named data objects.

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Additional Topics to Consider in the Describe / Metadata Stage


Metadata Review

Related Training Modules

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."


The USGS Manual Chapter 502.7 - Fundamental Science Practices: Metadata for USGS Scientific Information Products Including Data states that:

"Metadata must be created for virtually all scientific data prior to approval and release of the data as a USGS information product."