Event: what metadata is really useful

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A meeting to investigate what data we have (or could acquire) to answer the question of what metadata is really required to support the discovery, selection, use and management of educational resources.

Background (ideas from before the meeting)

There were three themes to the meeting:

  1. Data from user questionnaires
  2. Data from metatada production, i.e. application profiles and cataloguing guidelines
  3. Data from analysis of user search behaviour.

Data from user surveys

Here’s an example of what we can get from user questionnaires from David Davies. I hope that at this meeting we will be able to build on this and any other existing work people care to bring along. we might, for example, want to consider whether we can increase the scope and reach of such surveys in the future by suggesting some common questions they could include.

Data from metadata production

The current cataloguing practice for existing repositories could be a source of data which can be surfaced by examination of application profiles or cataloguing guidelines in use and examination of the records themselves. So we can find out whether people using the LOM do find it useful to have seperate description elements for general and educational properties (not to mention all those that come in the classification category). This is especially interesting since it is perhaps the only source of data I have thought of that reflects metadata required internally to the repository for managing resources.

Data from analysis of user search behaviour

Finally, and this is where I think we will have most to discuss, data can be obtained from logging access and queries. This is what I have in mind by way of questions that could be answered this way:

  1. How do people find the site? Is it through search engines or direct referral? Do they land on a resource page (=> they were looking for a resource and found it directly with an external search) or on your home page (=> they were looking for a collection of resources)? Obviously the answers will depend on who your users are and why they are coming to your site, if you have an institional repository or other local collection of your own resources (e.g. an OER site) you might find that members of your own institution, staff and students, have a different behaviour to others from outwith your institution.
  2. What search terms do people use to find resources? We can divide this into two: people who search elsewhere, e.g. Google, with query terms discovered through referrer logs or other web analytics tools; and people who search using a site’s own search functionality. A lot of the search terms will be subject keywords and they’ll be of interest to cataloguers or thesaurus developers for a specific site, but there will be other search terms (e.g. ‘powerpoint’, ‘ppt’, and ’slides’ all featured in the one set of logs I looked at recently), which lead us to …
  3. What do the search terms tell us about what characteristics of a resource people are searching for? And how do they conceptualize those characteristics. So a search for “powerpoint” suggests that they’re searching for a particular resource type, “introduction to…” would suggest a way of thinking about educational level. This would help us when making decisions about what metadata elements to use.


... (drop me a line if you know of others)