What Is Metadata?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn how metadata is used to organize, manage, and make sense of vast amounts of information in different industries.

[Featured image] A database engineer examines metadata for a database they're working on.

Metadata is data about data. It describes attributes of your data that can be important to know, but may not be immediately relevant to your data’s primary function. This could include information about how data was collected, where it’s stored, and how it’s used.

For example, metadata is often attached to digital files, such as photos, videos, and audio, to describe aspects of the file, such as its name, size, when it was captured, and where it was captured.

Metadata can be useful for verification and tracking purposes. You can refer to metadata to confirm that data is accurate and reliable (data integrity) or to create an organizational system for your data. Certain software and programs will also use metadata to interpret your data. For example, search engines use metadata to categorize web pages.

Types of metadata

There are several types of metadata, but three common types are descriptive, structural, and administrative.

  • Descriptive metadata describes identification attributes, such as the file name and author.

  • Structural metadata describes how data is organized, such as versions and relationships to other pieces of data.

  • Administrative metadata describes technical attributes, such as the file size and creation date.

Learn more about metadata and metadata management from experts at Google:

Related terms

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