One thing you probably didn’t know about the Library of Antiquity’s editorial team is that we’re like Oscar and Felix. Mary is impressively organized and can locate files on her computer in approximately ten seconds. Jackie is organized in her own quaint way (let’s just say it involves piles of printed material and scraps of paper with ***NB!!!! written on them). Today’s new format has Jackie asking questions about how to become so organized.
As a special heads-up to students, it’s never too early to start labeling your PDFs.
1. What is metadata? Why is it important / useful to use metadata for research?
Metadata is the data behind the scenes. Think about taking pictures on your cell phone. The phone records the date and time and sometimes even the location where the picture was taken. These are all examples of metadata. These can be important instances of metadata for research purposes. For example, if your research required you to collect inscriptions metadata might include the date (or approximate date) and findspot for the inscription.
Metadata is useful for research because it can help you sort or search for particular items. If we take our fictional database of inscriptions, your metadata can help you arrange your inscriptions by date or location. That’s the beauty of metadata: it can be whatever you want. You can tag your inscriptions by interesting feature (say some of them use unique phrases), noting that there is more than one copy of the inscription, by length, etc. The possibilities are really endless and can be tailored to your unique project and needs.
2. What material(s) do you tag? (PDFs only? Images? Primary/secondary?)
I personally tag everything. I use tags for primary sources like author, date, type of source (speech, biography, history, etc). I use tags for my secondary sources to denote what I’ve read, where in my project I’m likely to need the source, what other projects I’ve used the source for. Everything, you name it.
3. (a) How do you decide what terms to use for tags? (Based on keywords? Projects / research questions?)
Tags are highly personal and will vary depending on the individual and white kind of organizing system being used. Take some time to think about the kinds of tags that might be useful for your project before you begin tagging but don’t be afraid to let the system evolve (or get a complete overhaul) if necessary.
(b) Can you add a new tag to existing material?
Yes! See the next answer for more details.
4. How often do you perform housecleaning activities (such as updating tags, coming up with new tags, etc.)? Do you think that’s a good schedule, or would you prefer to do it more / less?
Organization is really important. Tagging and metadata take time but they also save time if they’re done properly. I spend a lot of time with my metadata but I try not to let it get in the way of my workflow. One way I accomplish this is to use an INBOX system. Each and every program etc. that I use has an inbox folder. In my dissertation file on my laptop there is a file called INBOX. There is an inbox in my Scrivener, my Evernote, everywhere in everything I use (see below). That is the default destination for all new material. I can then quickly add something without needing it to be perfect while I’m working so my writing, reading, research, whatever doesn’t get interrupted by stopping to add all of the details about a particular bibliographic reference. Then when I can’t concentrate on more difficult tasks like research or writing, I put on some music or the TV and sort my data out of the inboxes. I add tags and other metadata, bibliographic info, etc. I make sure everything gets filed in the right place and with the correct title format. I also use the same file titling format for all PDFs and notes: Author Date – Title. That way I can sort alphabetically or title search for authors and dates.
Some people work better with a schedule and can then say “every Friday at 3:00 I’m going to organize for 2 hours.” Maybe it works for you, and maybe it doesn’t. If you need more time adjust your schedule accordingly. I find that doing it when I’m not in the mood for other work helps me keep working. When I’m on a roll I get a little behind in my metadata but since all of those things are recent it doesn’t slow me down too much and I can catch up when I hit a rut. That way, when I see my organization failing I know it’s because I’ve been writing a lot and it makes me feel better.
5. What tools and/or software do you use? What are its/their limitations?
I use three major tools/software to keep myself organized: Scrivener, Evernote, and Cloud software (to facilitate syncing and access to my documents when I get on campus). Stay tuned for posts about how I work in each of these for more details. Other things that I use include a paper planner, a notebook for lists and other notes, Trello, Zotero, and Google Drive for collaboration.
**Note: we are working on tutorials for these tools — stay tuned!
How do you like our new format? Let us know what you think and please send us
Five Questions About …. metadata! by https://libraryofantiquity.wordpress.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.