USDA Forest Service

Forest Service Metadata Users Guide

FS Metadata
User Guide
Policy & Guidelines
Purpose and Scope
How to use this Guide
Step 1
Gathering Metadata
Step 2
Step 3
Creating FGDC Metadata
Step 4
Step 6
Maintaining Metadata
Feature Level Metadata
Contact Information
Glossary & Terms
Other Resources

USDA Forest Service -
Geospatial Advisory Committee
Last Modified:  3/31/05

Metadata Questionnaire

This questionnaire is intended to help resource specialist compile information about their data. This compilation should be done up-front, as the data are being developed.


This questionnaire is designed to collect critical information about how data were developed or collected. It applies to hard copy maps and manuscripts and digital including those developed by specialists using screen digitizing. As skills increase in the agency, more specialists are conducting their own analyses. The questionnaire applies to information generated by analysis as well. Fill out what you know about the data. For items you don't know, leave blank or state where information might be found. Diligent efforts to provide complete information will produce the best data documentation.

If you are creating the data, you have the most information available and understand best what the data represents. Filling out this form thoroughly will help future data users understand your data as well prevent later attempts to reconstruct lost information. GIS specialists and others with experience using metadata tools such as Arc Catalog may prefer to enter metadata directly rather than using the questionnaire.

Standards and Protocols - consult data steward

    1. Is there a standard or protocol for this type of data?
      1. By this we mean standards specific to your resource, for example in TEUI Protocol for ecological land types, NRCS soil survey standards.
    2. If so, ensure data meet are collected according to protocol and meet standards
    3. Is the theme of the data covered by the Forest Service Data Dictionary published at GSTC

Background Information

  1. What should we call this dataset (no spaces or caps, 8 or less characters)?
  2. What the data represents?
  3. What is the geographic extent of the data:
  4. Name of extent (ex. Southmanti Project, Moab Ranger District, Utah, Quad Name)?
  5. For what time period is this data applicable?
  6. What is the intended use for this data?
  7. Do you care who sees/uses these data? Is it sensitive information? Do you wish to place any restrictions on the use or distribution of the data?
  8. List key words (for searching) which describe the data.
  9. What is the Name, Address and Agency of the preparer?
  10. Are the data raster (cell data as from ERDAS, Grid, or Spatial Analyst or vector (lines, points, polygons)
  11. What is the output scale or resolution (ex. 1 meter cells, 10 acre cells, 1:24,000, 1:100,000)

Source Data

  1. What is the source of the data? Provide citation and other pertinent information about the source data such as how it was created, by whom, when, and why.
  2. What is the resolution/scale of the source data? (ex. 1 meter cells, 10 acre cells, 1:24,000, 1:100,000)
  3. What is the original digital format of the existing dataset? (autocad, Arc 7.1, shapefile).

Screen Digitized Data

  1. What was background data and scale/resolution were used for geographic reference ( 1 meter DOQ, 1:24,000 DRG, etc)
  2. How far were you zoomed? Provide as a scale_____________(ex 2000, 8500, 1000000) (make sure to set map units so you know)

Table Digitized Data (manuscripting)

  1. Are the quad corners or other registration points (tics) clearly and accurately drawn so the
  2. data can be tied to a coordinate system?
  3. If corner tics aren't available, are geographic references such as roads, streams, and section
  4. lines easily discernible? (old range and timber maps were sometimes based on township and range and lacked tic marks.)
  5. Is each polygon completely closed (no line breaks)?
  6. Do lines match lines adjacent quads precisely?
  7. How was the manuscript prepared from the source information?. For example did your transfer data from 1:16000 photos to 1:24,000 manuscript by eyeballing the features using streams, roads, or topog as a reference or did you use a transfer scope?
  8. Explain the written feature designations shown on your manuscript. What do they mean?
  9. Are any codes missing?
  10. Do any of the features represented in the data already occur in existing datasets?
    1. Ask the GIS specialist if you are unsure. ex. Forest Boundary, roads, streams
  11. What is the condition of the source manuscript? Is it in good condition or damaged, creased, rolled, folded, etc? If damaged, how did you maintain accuracy?


  1. What is the horizontal positional horizontal accuracy of the source features? (ex +- 10 meters, 1 mile)
    • In other words how accurate was the original source map in showing the location of mapped features? (+- feet, meters, miles?)
  2. If the dataset is transcribed from the source, do those features have a similar accuracy?
    1. In other words, was the accuracy of the original data preserved, degraded, or improved and by how much?
  3. If elevations are part of this dataset, what is the accuracy? (ex +- 1 meter, 10 meters, 30 meters)

Analysis and Model products - what information was combined and how was it done.

  1. What was the goal of the analysis or model (ex. determine lands not biophysically suitable for timber production)
  2. what information was combined
    1. ex. slope, soils, geology, timber stands
  3. What processes were used to combine information
    1. ex. overlay, select:  erodible soils, unstable formations on x slopes, and highly compactible soils
  4. did you recalculate areas/acres, length/miles after running your analysis or model

GPS Data

  1. provide information about the equipment and procedures used.
    • grade of equipment
    • correction information including base station used
    • projection and datum
  2. Reference the data dictionary

Field Methods

  1. What methods were used to make data
    • criteria to used identify features/draw lines

    • ex. Spruce Fir stands with x basal area and y canopy closure
    • method used to draw lines
      • plane table or survey
      • mapped directly onto air photos
      • mapped in field directly onto topo map
      • mapped directly onto topo map
      • GPS (see above


  1. What do the symbols/codes mean?

  2. ex. 1    steep slopes
          2    moderate slopes
          3    gentle slopes
  3. Are any features not labeled or any codes missing?



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