Data Dictionary


A data dictionary is a centralized repository that provides information about specific data such as meaning, relationships to other data, origin, usage, and format. A data dictionary stores metadata that defines and describes data so that it can be easily understood by anyone who would like to use it or analyze it at a later date. Librarians can assist in building data dictionaries for researchers by working closely with them at the onset of a new research project. The data dictionary – if started at the beginning of a research lifecycle – can assist in the management of research data from the beginning of data capture to the completion of a research study. For example, a data dictionary would be used to define each descriptive heading used when gathering quantitative data as part of a research study.

Further Resources

Davis DM. (2004). NISO Standard Z39.7: the evolution to a data dictionary for library metrics and assessment methods. Serials Review, 30(1):15–24.

Linnarsson R, Wigertz O. (1989). The data dictionary--a controlled vocabulary for integrating clinical databases and medical knowledge bases. Methods of Information in Medicine, 28(2):78–85.

Lorence DP. (2003). Discriminant patterns of consistency in health data dictionaries: implications for evidence-based medicine. Health Informatics Journal, 9(3):137–47.

Martin KE. (2011). Marrying local metadata needs with accepted standards: The creation of a data dictionary at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Journal of Library Metadata, 11(1):33–50.

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