n. ~ A characterization or description documenting the identification, management, nature, use, or location of information resources (data).
Metadata is commonly defined as "data about data." Metadata is frequently used to locate or manage information resources by abstracting or classifying those resources or by capturing information not inherent in the resource. Typically metadata is organized into distinct categories and relies on conventions to establish the values for each category. For example, administrative metadata may include the date and source of acquisition, disposal date, and disposal method. Descriptive metadata may include information about the content and form of the materials. Preservation metadata may record activities to protect or extend the life of the resource, such as reformatting. Structural metadata may indicate the interrelationships between discrete information resources, such as page numbers.
In terms of archives, MARC format and EAD are standards for structuring descriptive metadata about collections. Dublin Core is a standard for structuring metadata that is intended for describing web resources.
In terms of information technology, metadata includes the documentation of data architecture, properties, and methods necessary to store, retrieve, and use the data in a meaningful manner. To the extent that data is a record, it may also include administrative, descriptive, preservation, and structural information.