Creating Documentation

Documentation refers to information that is needed to make use of your data. Document more than you think is needed. It is a best practice that documentation is maintained at both the project level and the file level.

Here are some common forms of documentation:

Common Documentation
Document Purpose
Data Dictionary A file that defines and describes the elements of a dataset so that it can be understood and used at a later date.
Lab Notebook A notebook is often the primary record of the project process and is used to document hypotheses, experiments, analyses, and interpretations of results.
Metadata Metadata often conforms to a specific scheme - a set of standardized rules about how the metadata is organized and used.
  • Descriptive metadata - information about the content of your data.
  • Structural metadata - information about the physical structure of your data, including file format.
  • Administrative metadata - information about how and when your data was created.
Protocol Files describing the procedure(s) or method(s) used in the implementation of the project.
Readme A file that contains a description of the contents and structure of the folder and/or a dataset so that the information can be located.


Consider using established metadata standards (schemas) within your discipline. Remember that you may have to also comply with additional metadata requirements when storing your data in a data repository.

Clinical metadata may include elements that pose a risk to patient identification. It is your responsibility to provide the appropriate privacy when handling this kind of information.

Additional Resources