Metadata Definition and its types?

Metadata definition- describes information about documents, records and files – usually in terms of content and structure.

  Metadata is everywhere, but do you know what it is?

Metadata isn’t something that you necessarily notice every day, but it’s part of your everyday life. It’s not a new trend, either—metadata has been around since the 1700s and its importance continues to grow as digital information makes up more and more of our lives. So if you aren’t familiar with metadata or don’t know what it is, here’s what you need to know about the different types of metadata and how they are used today in digital information and marketing.

What is metadata?

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The term metadata refers to data about data. In other words, metadata describes information about documents, records and files – usually in terms of content and structure. While metadata is not typically visible to human readers like text or graphics are, it can be seen by machines. The word itself comes from a combination of meta-data (data about data) and -graphy (the study of), which was first used as early as 1965. 

We've said before that metadata isn't just another buzzword; it's really a critical part of content strategy. At its core, metadata is information about data (the word data derives from Latin and Greek roots meaning to give knowledge of. In other words, data without metadata wouldn't be very useful). Metadata provides details about any piece of data and can include such things as author information for a book or contact information for a manufacturer. It's likely that you encounter metadata every day — even if you don't realize it! Examples of common instances where we're encountering metadata in everyday life include

Today there are many types of metadata that we interact with every day; however only some of these will be highlighted below...

5 Most common metadata types

  1. Metadata can be generally categorized into five types: 
  2. structural metadata (data about your data), 
  3. descriptive metadata (data about your data to describe or document it), 
  4. administrative metadata (data about your data for administration purposes), 
  5. auxiliary metadata (data that supports other meta-types), 
  6. preservation metadata

Though there are many sub-types of these basic types of metadata, for now we’ll focus on these. Below are brief definitions of each type: Metadata can be generally categorized into five types: structural metadata (data about your data), descriptive metadata (data about your data to describe or document it), administrative metadata (data about your data for administration purposes), auxiliary metadata (data that supports other meta-types), and preservation metadata.

Examples of metadata

In a photo, metadata could include: when and where it was taken; who took it; and perhaps even who's in it. This information—often referred to as EXIF data—is super handy if you ever find yourself having to prove ownership of a photo or if someone tries to pass off your photography as their own. For example, remember that great pic of the double rainbow over Norway you took last year? Well, if you were worried about someone taking credit for your work without your permission, there’s an easy way to verify that it’s yours—just pull up its EXIF info in Adobe Photoshop. Also interesting to note here: most photos on Flickr come with EXIF data included so there's no need to add any additional information.

Structural metadata

Metadata that defines a part of a document. Common types of structural metadata include titles, subtitles, authors names and contact information. This sort of metadata defines who or what something is rather than simply describing its content. When adding metadata to a document, think about any relevant details about your project -- things like an author's name, address and phone number; publication date and issue number; or subject headings for inclusion in an online catalog. Understanding how common metadata fields are used can help you more easily integrate them into your work.

Descriptive metadata

You can think of descriptive metadata as a sort of table of contents or index for your files. This information lets users and programs quickly see what a file contains and how to open it. You can find meta data about a picture in its properties or by right-clicking and going to get info on most operating systems. Information like dimensions, resolution, author and title are good examples of descriptive metadata.

Administrative metadata

This type of metadata may be stored in a database or spreadsheet program. It includes information that you’ve decided to track about your own content (or even non-content items). For example, a list of all sites that have licensed your content for syndication could fall into administrative metadata. An image editing software might save technical details like color space or native resolution as administrative metadata for each photo or image. Administrative metadata is unique to every organization and can help with tasks ranging from processing payments to producing deliverables. While many business owners create some form of administrative metadata without really knowing it, there are times when formalizing these bits of data will allow you to better understand your business processes.

Auxiliary metadata

This includes any metadata that's embedded within an image file itself. For example, a JPEG file can include metadata in EXIF format. The EXIF format is also used for storing information about sound files; videos use their own container formats. Most of these auxiliary forms of metadata are informational only and aren't actually necessary to get a file to play; they're just there as a handy way to include extra information about things like where/when a photo was taken or what equipment was used to take it (or even who).

Preservation metadata

Data about data. Preservation metadata has many of its roots in archival science and records management (what most of us would recognize as a library discipline). A good example of preservation metadata is MARC—the Machine-Readable Cataloging System developed by libraries to assist catalogers with organization, storage and retrieval within archives. The problem with MARC is that it’s not very computer-friendly. RDA—Resource Description and Access--and MODS—Modified Content Descriptive Standards --were both developed by libraries to address these issues; however, they are still difficult for computers to read effectively. All of these systems are relatively heavy on human-interpretation – requiring constant hand-editing --and thus make digital preservation very expensive and time consuming.

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Metadata can be manually generated to select what to include, but it can also be automatically generated from data. Metadata enriches data with information, making it easier to discover, use, and manage. Metadata in the field of database management may be related to the size, format, or other characteristics of data items.


Iit is necessary to clarify the complex metadata necessary for the complete processing of multimedia documents, which contains many different types of data for external and actual material management, as well as the description of resources and the presentation of content. And semantic interpretation. Each file you save on your computer contains some basic information about the file so that the operating system understands how to handle it so that you or others can quickly determine which file it is from the metadata. Structural metadata can determine whether the file is the original file, or whether it has been modified or changed in any way. The terminal object-level metadata is mainly structured and provides the digital attributes of each file, such as size, extension, bit depth, etc.

About the Author

Sarkun is a dedicated research student at one of India's premier institutions, the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER). With over three years of experience in the realm of blogging, Sarkun's passion lies at the interse…

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