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For researchers, there are common metadata standards and domain specific metadata standards to consider before you start to document and manage your data. At the same time, here are some general fields across all domains you may consider so that you will be able to back up your data in an institutional data repository and most digital repositories.

Field Definition
Title A name given to the dataset or the research project that produced it.
Creator An entity primarily responsible for creating the resource or dataset.
Contributors An entity responsible for making contributions to the resource or dataset.
Description An account of the resource or dataset. Can include abstract, table of contents, access information, data processing information and methodology on how the data was generated (such as equipment or software used, experimental protocol, other things one might include in a lab notebook).
Publisher An entity responsible for making the resource or dataset available.
Subject Keywords or phrases describing the content of the resource or dataset.
Identifier An unambiguous reference to the resource or dataset within a given context.
Language Language(s) of the content of the resource or dataset, if applicable.
Rights Any known intellectual property rights held for the data, including access rights and rights holder.
Type The nature or genre of the resource, e.g. dataset, image.
Format Format(s) of the data, e.g. FITS, SPSS, HTML, JPEG, and any software required to read the data.
Date Key dates associated with the dataset, including: project start and end date; release date; time period covered by the data; and other dates associated with the data lifespan, e.g., maintenance cycle, update schedule.
Source A related resource from which the data is derived, including details of where the source data is held and how it was accessed.
Relation A related resource, including "Relation- Has Format Of," "Relation- Is Format Of," "Relation- Has Part," "Relation- Is Part Of," "Relation- Has Version," "Relation- Is Version Of," "Relation- Replaces," "Relation- Is Replaced By," "Relation- Requires," "Relation- Is Required By."
Coverage The spatial and temporal topic of the resource or dataset.
Audience class of entity for whom the resource or dataset is intended or useful.
Provenance A statement of any changes in ownership and custody of the resource or dataset since its creation that is significant for its authenticity, integrity, and interpretation.

The above fields are all Dublin Core compliant, which will make data sharing and harvesting across subject domains and data repositories easy. However, non-DC compliant elements and domain specific information are equally if not more important to record.

Field Definition
Funders Organizations or agencies that funded the research.
List of file names List of all data files associated with the project, with their names and file extensions.
File structure Organization of the data file(s) and the layout of the variables, if applicable.
Variable list List of variables in the data files, if applicable.
Code lists Explanation of codes or abbreviations used in either the file names or the variables in the data files (e.g. "* indicates a missing value in the data").
Checksums To check for data integrity and test if your file has changed over time.