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Records...well CDs then.  But these count as recordsRecords Management Glossary


Access (to information):

The right, opportunity and means of finding, using or retrieving information.


Permission or necessary security clearance to obtain or retrieve information. Access is restricted to electronic information by means of applying security permissions e.g. locking down drives, folders, sites or by the use of passwords, encryption, etc. Access may be restricted to 'hard copy' or paper information by physically locking drawers, cabinets and offices - a tracking system should be in place to ensure access permissions are controlled.



The principle that individuals, organisations and the community are responsible for their actions and may be required to explain them to others.


Active records:

See current records.



How the value of the record is measured in order to determine at what stage it could be destroyed or kept during its lifecycle.  Criteria for appraisal are based on the primary (administrative, fiscal and legal) and secondary (evidential and informational records).



A body of records, designated for indefinite or permanent retention, which has continuing secondary, but not primary value to the organisation which created it.



An official examination and verification of accounts, records and systems.


Big Data:

Big data is often defined by the so-called ‘three Vs’: volume, variety and velocity: big data typically uses massive datasets, brings together data from different sources and can be used to analyse data in real time. But it is difficult to produce a watertight definition. Big data has been described as a phenomenon rather than a technology, and that’s a useful distinction (ICO).


Analysis (processing) of any datasets which include personal data should comply with Data Protection Legislation (GDPR and DPA 2018). If you have any queries in this regard please contact the Information Governance Manager or consult the University's Data Protection Code of Practice.



Systematic identification and arrangement of business activities and/or records into categories according to logically structured conventions, methods and procedural rules represented in a classification system. 


Current records:

Records regularly used for (or which contain immediate relevance to) the conduct of current business that are maintained in their placed of origin.


Data controller:

"A person who (either alone or jointly in common with other persons) determines the purposes for which and the manner in which any personal data are, or are to be, processed" (ICO). Edinburgh Napier University is registered with the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) as a Data Controller. University employees who are processing personal data on behalf of the University as a legitimate part of their employment do so under this registration notice. For further information please see the University Data Protection Code of Practice.


Data subject:

The living individual to whom the data relates who is therefore the subject of personal data.


Recorded information or object which can be treated as a unit. 


A unit or piece of recorded information that can be deciphered. A document may be in any format, physical or electronic. A document may not necessarily be a 'record', however records always originate from documents. A document is recorded information which is not, or not yet, a record of business activity, for example a blank form is a 'document' but once it has been completed it is very likely to become a 'record' or part of a record. Some documents such as promotional material will be records to the business that produced them, but not to those that received them.


Document management system:

A propriety electronic system that scans, stores and retrieves documents received or created by an organisation. There is a distinction between this and an Electronic Records Management System.



The destruction of records when they have ceased to have any operational or historical value to the organisation.  A range of processes are associated with implementing appraisal decision, for example: to retain, delete or destroy records - but may also include the transmission or migration or records between systems and the transfer of custody/ownership of records.



The retention or disposal of records (see disposal).

Electronic records:

Records held in digital form, for example: databases, e-mails, scanned images, MS Word/Excel, and web pages.


Electronic Records Management System:

An electronic system for the control of document management systems. The latter may lack the features to provide essential information about records required for sound records management (for example, the ability to appraise records at file level, and to indicate when records have been assessed or altered and by whom; or the ability to support retention scheduling).


Ephemeral records:

e.g. lasting a short time. Also see 'temporary records' below.

Records which are only of use in the short-term and of value for contributing to the creation of more significant records which are subject to formal, longer-term retention periods. Ephemeral records are those records which will no longer be required once the record/business to which they contributed is finalised - they are usually received or created in the course of normal/routine business. This term also applies to records which are insignificant for business purposes and those kept for personal reference. Examples include duplicates, calculations, reference materials, rough notes which have been used to contribute to the compilation of other records and in the case of minor records, the drafts and versions which have not been circulated/sent out (this no longer applies once they have been circulated) or used for business purposes. Examples also include informal email messages, 'thank-you' messages, or those which do not evidence business activities and personal messages/documents.

Please note: drafts and versions of important records, such as policies, strategies, formal meetings and proceedings, etc. are not ephemeral records - these records which evidence important decisions document the development process to the final decision or record/s, show significant changes, etc. should be kept as part of the final record.


File plan:

Folder structure that classifies and groups documents and records with the same characteristics together (physical or electronic). Documents and records should be grouped together according to the functions, activities and tasks that they support.


Golden Record:

The master copy of a record (not a duplicate or copy). The original, finalised, official version of the record. This record must be authentic (can be proven to be what it is said to be), original and have integrity (be complete and unaltered). Ideally a 'golden' record will be held by the originating department. For example, often departments hold copies of financial records for reference only, whilst the 'golden' record is held by the Finance Department. Retention periods for copies will be considerably shorter than those of 'golden' records.


Inactive records:

See non-current records.



The life of a record, consisting of three distinct phases: its creation, distribution and use as a current record; its maintenance as a semi-current record; and its disposal or archiving as a non-current record.



A description or profile of a document: data about the data. The description may contain data relating to the context, form or content of the document and its management through time. With electronic records metadata  are attached to, or form part of, each record. Examples of metadata include: information about the author, title and subject of a document.


Non-current records:

Records no longer needed for reference by their creators, which are seldom used but which need to be retained by the organisation for legal reason, for example: financial statements; recruitment records or for potential archiving as historical records, for example annual reports, board minutes.  Also known as inactive records.


Personal data:

Any information that relates to an identified or identifiable person (the Data Subject), or which in combination with other information in the possession of, or likely to come into the possession of, the Data Controller would result in identification. This includes any expression of opinion about the individual and any indication of the intentions of the data controller or any other person in respect of the individual.



The processes and operations involved in ensuring the technical and intellectual survival of authentic records over time.



A record is any piece of information created or received and maintained by an organisation or person in the course of their business or conduct of affairs and kept as evidence of such activity.  Records can be held in the form of letters, memos, faxes, reports, databases, e-mails, plans, videos, photographs, slides, audio recordings, CDs, CD-ROMs, microfilm and any other medium.


Records have three main purposes:


  • Evidence of a transaction and its terms in the event of a dispute;
  • As reference material for the organisation of facts, background, prior actions and ideas to be used in the decision-making process
  • To comply with legislative or professional requirements for the retention of records.


Records management:

The discipline and professional function of managing records to meet the organisational needs, business efficiency and legal and financial accountability.


Retention periods:

Specific time periods for which records are kept. See retention scheduling below.


Retention schedule:

A list of the records series of an organisation with directions for how the records are to be disposed of after their creation and initial use.  A schedule is a written statement of how long each series, or group of series, is to be kept (e.g. a period of years, until an action has been completed, or indefinitely) and may include instructions on when records are to be transferred to archives or destroyed. 

Retention Schedules are policy documents which ensure compliance with legislative and regulatory requirements. See also retention scheduling, appraisal and disposal.

University Records Retention Schedules


Retention scheduling:

The process which details how long each phase of the lifecycle should be for individual files, and which allows records management staff to dispose of or transfer records to a records store or archive at the correct time.


Semi-current records:

Records not needed on a regular basis, but still required sometimes for consultation by their creating body.  The lifecycle phase between current and non-current records e.g. a previous year's record s kept for reference while current work is done.



A group of identical or related records that are normally used and filed as a unit, and which permit identification/evaluation as a unit.  A series may consist of one or many records.


Temporary records:

Those records which can be disposed of immediately or within a short period of time. These records may contribute to a record with a longer retention period e.g. handwritten notes for the purpose of compiling meeting minutes can be destroyed once the minutes have been approved.


Transitory records:

(see 'ephemeral records' or 'temporary records' above)

Records that are only useful for a short period of time and will not be required again once they are superseded by the records to which they contribute.



Capturing and maintaining information about the movement and uses of records.


Vital records:

Vital records are records which, in the event of a disaster, are essential to maintain business continuity by continuing or resuming operations, recreating an institution's legal and financial status and preserving the institution's rights and fulfilling its obligations to its stakeholders. (JISC)



ISO 15489-1:2001

Information Commissioner's Office: http://ico.org.uk/