Forum Guide to Metadata
NFES 2009-805
July 2009

Common technical metadata items

Common name Description
Field length The recommended maximum number of places that the value of a data element would require in an electronic record system. For example, a descriptive alpha/numeric (AN) element might require 60 letters or numbers for a response, whereas a date (DT) would require 8 digits (MMDDYYYY). When designing a data collection system, both minimum and maximum lengths generally are specified.
Element type A description of the form or qualities (i.e., the "type") of the data that constitutes the element. The NCES Handbooks Online support several data element types, including alpha/numerical (AN), dates (DT), floating decimals (R), identifiers (ID), and numerical (N).
Permitted values The range of possible acceptable values for a data field. For example, an elementary school may limit the permitted values for the Birthdate data element to reflect only the allowable age of elementary school students.
Code set A list of choices that serves as a response for a data element. For example, "Female" and "Male" are options under the data element "Sex."
Translations The transformation of a data value from one format, language, or presentation to another. For example, a date originally collected as 050806 (August 5, 2006 in the DDMMYY format) might be translated to 08052006 in the MMDDYYYY format in the target or destination system.
Storage/archival destination The location (physical and/or electronic) where a piece of data is stored. This includes backup storage and should, as appropriate, be as specific as possible (e.g., the Blue Ridge Backup Facility, eastern wing, section 8, box 4, tape 2).
Data source The collection instrument, data file, or formula from which data originated.
Data target (where used) Any reporting instrument (including reports, report cards, publications, and other products), data file, or formula that uses or publish the data.