In the blog series “Researcher questions” the Artes Research team shares some common and/or pertinent questions that we get from researchers at the Faculty of Arts. The goal of the series is to share the advice that we give more broadly, as it might be helpful to others as well or make you consider something you had not thought about before.
“How will you apply metadata?” This question appears on every data management plan template. In workshops and resources like our research data management (RDM) guide, we talk about how using metadata to add structure to the content of research materials can improve the quality and potential of a project in countless often unexpected ways. Still, such brief and theoretical explanations don’t always make it clear what might be the point of using metadata to turn your specific research materials into structured data.
If this sounds like you, you may like to check out metadata-related pages from the user guides of the tools you would use to add metadata to your materials: reference managers, image management programs, online exhibition platforms, qualitative data analysis software, and so on. Such pages show directly how metadata application would work for you in practice, in accessible language and often with clear screenshots and recognizable examples from academic research.
Check out these examples:
- This page on metadata from the documentation of Tropy, a platform for organizing and annotating images, is a fantastic introduction for humanities researchers to the concept of metadata in general and structured vocabularies in particular: Corporation for Digital Scholarship. (n.d.-d). What is metadata and how do I use it? Tropy. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://docs.tropy.org/before-you-begin/metadata
- On the online exhibition and collection management platform Omeka, you can add a range of different types of metadata to every item you upload to make your collection easier to organize, search, and publish in many flexible formats. This how-to page on adding items includes a short video demo of the process: Corporation for Digital Scholarship. (n.d.-a). Add Items with metadata in Omeka. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://info.omeka.net/build-a-website/add-items/
- An informative overview of how tagging is used in the Transkribus transcription and optical character recognition platform to add structure to historical documents: READ-COOP. (n.d.). How To Enrich Transcribed Documents with Mark-up. READ-COOP. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://readcoop.eu/transkribus/howto/how-to-enrich-transcribed-documents-with-mark-up/
- If you’re new to qualitative data analysis software, this how-to page by Taguette offers a simple introduction to the power of annotating a text with metadata: using tags to display various combinations of annotated text, creating hierarchical bundles of tag concepts, merging tags: Taguette. (n.d.). Using tags in Taguette, the free and open-source qualitative data analysis tool. Taguette. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://www.taguette.org/getting-started.html#tag
- The reference manager Zotero offers a simple and to-the-point guide on using tags to add structure to a collection of academic sources: Corporation for Digital Scholarship. (n.d.-b). Collections and tags [Zotero Documentation]. Zotero. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://www.zotero.org/support/collections_and_tags
- The Zotero documentation also offers a tantalizing description of how metadata can be made useful for others. Zotero has a PDF metadata retrieval feature that lets users import any PDF, checks the PDF for possible identifying information, and matches it to online metadata about academic works that others have already made available. If someone has already done the work of making the metadata available, it is automatically imported into your bibliography, saving you the effort of entering it by hand: Corporation for Digital Scholarship. (n.d.-c). Retrieve pdf metadata [Zotero Documentation]. Zotero. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://www.zotero.org/support/retrieve_pdf_metadata
- To finish with one more example from Zotero: the word processor plugin of Zotero is a wonderful demonstration of the power of complete, accurate metadata entered into a program that knows what to do with such structured information. When you want to insert a reference while writing in Word or other text editors, you can summon a search box that connects to Zotero and retrieves the correct metadata about the citation from your Zotero collection for you to insert in your text. Even better, the plugin can also rearrange that metadata to automatically generate a bibliography section under your text based on the citations you inserted. And if it turns out you used the wrong citation style, or need to switch to a different style to submit work to a different journal, Zotero again automatically rearranges the metadata into the desired style. In short, once you’ve used metadata to turn your list of references into structured data, you’ll never painstakingly type out a bibliography by hand again: Corporation for Digital Scholarship. (n.d.-e). Word processor plugin usage [Zotero Documentation]. Zotero. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://www.zotero.org/support/word_processor_plugin_usage