Titling information and records

One of the most important functions of any information management system is to ensure that the records it contains can be searched and found for business purposes. A title that provides a concise statement of the content of the record will ensure that the right record will be found efficiently and its content and context understood.

If the title does not reflect the content of the file, or the individual document, it will be difficult for users to find the information they need. Effective titles distinguish one record from all others.

Titling files – be precise yet inclusive

File and container titles should be specific. If the title is too general, unrelated material will be placed on the file, making it harder to find and retrieve the document you need. It is better to have numerous files relating to specific matters, than only one or two files covering a wide range of information.

There are also pitfalls in being too specific in a file or container title; documents relating to a topic may be spread over a number of files, making it difficult to track the progress of a particular activity. It should be possible to follow a sequence of events, decisions and transactions relating to a single matter by reading through a single file. As a general rule there should be only one file or container for each group of transactions relating to an individual issue.

Records classification tools link the business activities of an agency to the records it creates.

Titling documents – capture the purpose

The title of a document should clearly state its purpose and might include:

  • a short phrase that defines the action, subject or topic of the document
  • names (eg of an organisation, individual or project)

Other details such as the date of the record will depend on the requirements of the agency. For example, the system might capture the date of registration, but it could be useful to capture the date of creation in the title.

Be consistent

Title files on similar business consistently, it makes them easier to find. Use agreed terms in situations where there can be variations, for example use 'personnel' – not 'staff' or 'employees'. The use of a thesaurus such as AGIFT can assist in identifying your preferred terms. Australian Government information should use approved titling conventions.

Avoid using jargon and abbreviations

Jargon tends to change with fashion making it difficult to find files when usage is no longer current.

Avoid using acronyms and abbreviations as they can mean different things to different people at different times. Where the use of acronyms or abbreviations is appropriate refer to your agency's guidance on preferred or approved terms.

What’s in a name?

The National Archives of Australia has developed a new and exciting online video training module What’s in a Name?

The module follows three simple steps to help you title information and records so that everybody can understand their content, context and purpose – and find them easily when needed:

  • make it meaningful
  • make your title unique
  • keep names consistent

This will help everyone in your agency make the best decisions quickly when they title information and records.

Note: If your agency does not permit access to YouTube please contact agencytraining@naa.gov.au so we can make alternative access arrangements.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019