Catalogue metadata are a subset of core data documentation providing standardised structured information explaining the purpose, origin, time references, geographic location, creator, access conditions and terms of use of data.

Metadata for online data catalogues or discovery portals are often structured to international standards or schemes such as Dublin Core, ISO 19115 for geographic information, Data Documentation Initiative (DDI), Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard (METS) and General International Standard Archival Description (ISAD(G)).

The DDI is an international XML-based descriptive metadata standard for social science data used by most social science data archives in the world.

At the Archive we use DDI to structure our catalogue records. The use of standardised records in eXtensible Mark-up Language (XML) brings key data documentation together into a single document, creating rich and structured content about the data.

The metadata record can be viewed with web browsers, can be used for extract and analysis engines and can enable field-specific searching. Disparate catalogues can be shared and interactive browsing tools can be applied. In addition, metadata can be harvested for data sharing through the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH).

The UK Data Archive's catalogue record

Our DDI records contain mandatory and optional metadata elements on:

  • study description - information about the context of the data collection such as bibliographic citation of the study and data, scope of the study (topics, geography, time), methodology of data collection, sampling and processing, data access information, and information on accompanying materials
  • data file description - information on data format, file type, file structure, missing data, weighting variables and software
  • variable descriptions

Example extract from a UK Data Archive DDI catalogue record

<topcClas Vocab="unknown">Economic processes and indicators - Economics</topcClas>
<topcClas Vocab="unknown">Economic systems and development - Economics</topcClas>
<topcClas Vocab="unknown">General - Employment and labour</topcClas>
<topcClas Vocab="unknown">Elites and leadership - Social stratification and groupings</topcClas>
<topcClas Vocab="unknown">Management and organisation - Industry and management</topcClas>
<abstract>This project aims to develop knowledge and understanding of the contemporary globalization of the headhunting industry in Europe and its implications for new forms and geographies of executive search and selection. Europe has become the most complex and sophisticated pan-regional market for executive search, fuelled by free labour mobility within the EU, thereby offering a unique environment in which to study the changing practices of the headhunting industry.</abstract>
<nation>The Netherlands</nation>
<geogCover>Frankfurt</geogCover> <nation>Belgium</nation> <geogCover>Brussels</geogCover> <universe>Executive search consultants, researchers and associations in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Brussels, 2006-2007</universe>
<collDate event="start" date="01/2006">January 2006</collDate>
<collDate event="end" date="08/2007">August 2007</collDate>
<timePrd event="start" date="01/1980">January 1980</timePrd>
<timePrd event="end" date="08/2007">August 2007</timePrd>
<dataSrc rule="Sources used">The Executive Grapevine, The Directory of Executive Recruitment, published by The Executive Grapevine International Ltd. Editions consulted: 1980, 1985, 1990, 1994, 2000, 2005</dataSrc>
<dataSrc rule="Source location and access">Copies are held at the British Library and the most recent edition is available for private purchase.</dataSrc>
<collMode>Face-to-face interview</collMode>
<collMode rule="Other">Time series for search firm and office data collated from the Executive Grapevine Directories of International Recruitment</collMode>
<sampProc>Purposive selection/case studies</sampProc>
<timeMeth>Cross-sectional (one-time) study</timeMeth>

We collect the initial catalogue record information from our data collection deposit form, which is completed by the data depositor. We then enhance information from accompanying documentation to create a conformant metadata record. Where researchers can provide detailed and meaningful data collection titles, descriptions, keywords, contextual and methodological information in the deposit form, it helps us create rich resource-discovery metadata for their deposited collections. We assign key words from our own HASSET thesaurus.

Depositors are encouraged to provide information about original and subsequent reports and publications or presentations based on our data collections so these references can be added as further documentation. We are always interested in capturing case studies of re-use of data in our collections to encourage further use of data.

We prepare a standard bibliographic citation for each data collection so that users can correctly cite the data sources in research outputs. We believe that a well documented high quality dataset deserves equivalent recognition and acknowledgement as published research outputs.