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Helping you understand all there is to know about metadata analysis

by Casey Schmidt  |  February 16, 2021

4 min. read
A group of conflicting data models.

Metadata is everywhere, filling digital files with pools of information. But that information only accomplishes its intended purpose if you use it.

While many people are capable of locating, accessing and understanding pieces of metadata, be it manually or through computer programs, that is only one part of the equation. The other part exists in the in-depth study of the information found. This is metadata analysis.

A group of digital data.

This article will go over about the different types of metadata analysis and offer insight into the technology surrounding these processes.

Let’s explore the different ways metadata can and should be reviewed.

What is metadata analysis?

Metadata analysis means different things to different people, since the analysis involved will greatly vary from one situation to the next. For some, metadata analysis refers to analyzing data from different sources, like multiple scientific studies. For others, metadata analysis is the discovery of digital metadata, particularly the unseen data.

Whichever the case, metadata analysis is a useful tool for those who work with large amounts of information, so it’s important you have all the tools and information about it at your disposal.

A comprehensive approach to metadata analysis

Depending on what types of information you’re analyzing, chances are the best bet for success is something that brings together different sources and unifies them. That’s why a comprehensive approach to metadata analysis is so effective. It takes the available data, including the research about that data, and sifts through it, to find what’s relevant.

A data representation of digital points.

Here’s an example to demonstrate this effective approach. Let’s say there is a need to find out all there is to know about two particular objects: an email and an attachment on that email. Finding the metadata would be the first step. This would entail locating different parts of the email, and then downloading and reviewing the data from the attached file. After that, the information would need to be analyzed.

A comprehensive approach ensures that the analysis is complete, meaning users discover and explore all available data, and also they use the most valid analysis (especially if there are multiple “reports”).

Digital metadata analysis

Chances are, many problematic or at least complex metadata research attempts will come in the form of some type of digital object, particularly computer files that contain large amounts of information. Why is this the case? Consider this example: Let’s say you have a physical, print photograph in a photo album. If someone urged you to research and analyze the metadata of that picture, you could look at both the picture, and likely the back of it and gather all that is needed. The back of the photo has metadata visible for everyone, with things such as the “who” and the “when”’ either written by hand on or stamped on automatically by the camera.

Rising data points.

Compare this to a digital image, and you see that analyzing the metadata for a computer file has the potential for immense complexities. It’s not just that the metadata is more difficult to find.Interpreting this data also requires a more unique skill set that extends further than reading a few bits of information.

It’s no surprise, then, that metadata analysis often requires specific approaches depending on the types of information being analyzed. Entire fields, such as computer forensics, are dedicated entirely to understanding the information on digital files.


Tools needed for successful metadata analysis

Because metadata analysis has such a wide ranging meaning from one application to the next, it becomes nearly impossible for a program to present itself as a metadata analysis tool. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t programs and tools that can help in your own analysis of metadata.

The first type of tool you’ll want to check out are ones that help you read the metadata you’re after. Again, this will change depending on the situation, but metadata editors often come with helpful processes that allow users to view embedded metadata.

A computer with different code and numbers on the screen.

Another popular technology which paves the way for superior analysis is metadata management, which is technically designed to update and control metadata. This is important, because accurate data is a prerequisite for better analysis.

Whichever tools you end up selecting, make sure they’re a good fit for the type of research and analysis you require.

Final thoughts

Metadata is much too complex of a topic to address with a single fix or singular process. Instead, think of your analysis of the information through the scope of individual and specific needs. The results will be rewarding.