Why describe information
The more consistent and accurate the description, the more likely the right information can be found quickly, reused, shared and managed.
Describing information enables users to:
- identify individual information objects
- differentiate one information object from another
- search for information they have created and saved
- create topical lists of records or data sets
Describing information makes it possible for future users to:
- find the information when they need it
- understand why it was created, by whom and when
- determine the controls under which it can be used
How information is described
We can describe individual items and objects like a single document, a photograph, a film or an audio recording.
We can also describe aggregations of information like data sets, records files, collections of pictures, or even a crate full of soil samples.
This descriptive information is captured as metadata.
Useful and relevant descriptive metadata for information and records management uses:
The National Archives endorses 2 metadata standards for information and records management in the Australian Government.
To support the implementation of AGRkMS, the National Archives created the minimum metadata set.
When describing information, you need to define the relevant terms and classifications. A tool we use for this is the functions thesaurus.
A functions thesaurus is a controlled alphabetic list of function terms presented as a hierarchy.
A functions thesaurus:
- covers terminology relating to agencies’ unique or core business functions and activities
- can provide classification to 3 or 4 levels, allowing for comprehensive business information classification
In the Australian Government, we use the Australian Governments' Interactive Functions Thesaurus (AGIFT) as a classification tool so that resources are easier to discover.
AGIFT describes the high-level business functions carried out across federal, state and local governments in Australia.
AGIFT contributes to the discovery of online government information and services by:
- providing standard terms for government agencies to use in the 'Function' element of the AGLS metadata element set
- helping users search government entry points when they are not sure about which terms to use or which level of government is responsible for the information or service they require
- providing a framework for government agencies to develop a more detailed agency-based functional thesaurus for their own classification needs
AGIFT is also provided as a linked data platform that can be used to aid interoperability by linking Government datasets from different sources.