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Data Management Plans

This guide provides resources to assist WSU faculty members and students who are creating strategies for storing, describing, and providing access to their research data.

Key Considerations

Metadata is important for documenting your dataset so others can follow the details of your method, sources, and analysis. Good metadata will also help you more effectively manage your own project. Key pieces of metadata can include:

  • geographic location
  • units of measure
  • abbreviations/codes used in the dataset
  • instrument/protocol information
  • protocol
  • file custody
  • rights
  • version information
  • dates
  • authors

If your discipline has a recommended metadata schema, it can serve as a useful, standardized template for describing your data. Otherwise, it's recommended that you use README files to document your dataset.

Find a Metadata Standard

Select a metadata standard that is most popular and used by experts in your field. These links may be useful for getting started but they are not exhaustive.

Controlled Vocabularies

Controlled vocabularies are preferred terms that you can use to describe your dataset. Controlled vocabularies help others to find your datasets but also facilitate meta-analysis within datasets and interoperability of multiple datasets in repositories.

Some disciplines have well-established controlled vocabularies while others do not. You can look for options in your discipline by reviewing some of the examples below.


It is always preferable to use a metadata standard and/or controlled vocabulary to describe your data, but if these are not available, README files are a good alternative. Good practices for README files include (see the Cornell University Guide to Writing "Readme" Style Metadata for more information):

  • Whenever possible, create one README file for each data file
  • Write your README file as a plain-text document (non-proprietary)
  • Name the README file so it’s readily associated with its accompanying data file
  • Follow conventions for expressing taxonomic, geospatial, and geologic names. Use taxonomies/vocabularies like Getty Research Institute, Integrated Taxonomic Information System, NASA Thesauri, GCMD Keywords, Gene Ontology, or the USGS Thesauri
  • Use standardized date formats. For instance, express dates as YYYYMMDD or YYYYMMDDThhmmss.

Ontologies and Thesauri

When documenting data, follow conventions for expressing taxonomic, geospatial, and geologic names. Here are a few sample conventions to consult.

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