Geographic Information System/Metadata

General Information


Metadata is information that describes data in ArcGIS. You can find appropriate items with a search and evaluate which of the items in your search results is the correct one to use.

In an item's metadata you can record whatever information is important for the reader to know about that item. This might include information about how accurate and recent the item is, restrictions associated with using and sharing the item.

Improper evaluation of metadata can lead to inaccurate representation of the data you are using for the project at hand, which can in turn lead to the discredit of your work.

Acquiring Metadata


Since metadata comes along with most of the GIS data you acquire from anywhere, acquiring it is not very difficult. Usually when you are searching for GIS data or shape files, the metadata that corresponds to it is in the same folder/ page. Any website or database that your are looking in will probably have a guided way for you to acquire the necessary metadata. This is probably the least difficult aspect related to metadata.

Viewing Metadata


It is important to know where to find and view the metadata that you're working with, because each source you use may organize it differently withing the data set. Most GIS data sets or items will have metadata, including tools, toolboxes, folders, geodatabases, text files, and file types. After it's created, metadata is copied, moved, and deleted along with the data item when it is worked with in ArcGIS. Metadata for GIS resources is useful if it's done correctly. It can help you intuitively organize your resources and assess the cost to maintain them, improve communication and share your items, and find resources that are available and choose which one you need to use.

When working with ArcGIS, you can view an item's metadata in the Description tab, within the item you want to examine. You will see an HTML page that you can interact with as you would any other page in a web browser.

After viewing an item's metadata, you can start editing it if you have permission to do so, using the edit button withing the description tab.

Any success with GIS analysis depends on your ability to analyze metadata, therefore you must know how to view it.

Publishing Metadata


An items metadata can be published to websites, databases, organizations, etc. If you can't find metadata withing the item description in ArcGIS Desktop while working on a project, some common options for publishing metadata where you may find what you're looking for include: ArcGIS Online,, geoportals, an ArcIMS metadata service, etc. In order to publish it to any of these places, the metadata needs to be properly inspected and examined to make sure it is accurate and that it correctly identifies the item it is supposed to.