What are the Characteristics of Records?

Lena-Maria Öberg, Erik Borglund


Project documentation, minutes of meetings, emergency plans, and inspection reports are all examples of records, recorded information. There is a changeover from paper-based records to electronic records in many organizations and these organizations often implement information systems managing electronic records that only take archival requirements into consideration to some extent, if at all. This is a problem that makes preservation of electronic records difficult. The aim of this paper is to describe the characteristics of records, based on a study of empirical data and archival theory. It is essential to identify and understand the characteristics of a record in order to manage and preserve records in computerised systems. Knowledge of what characteristics a record has is one way to make it possible to formalize records. Formalization at different levels is needed for computerized management of records. This paper is based on a qualitative case study performed at four different organizations in Sweden. Empirical data was collected from multiple sources within each organization and resulted in five groups of characteristics with several sublevels. The empirical data were compared with recordkeeping and archival theory. Based on this study the essential characteristics of records were identified as context, form, organization, structure and version/copy.

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