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What Is A Record?

The documents on your desk, computer or network, in emails, in file cabinets and many other locations are either Official Records or Non-Record material.  

Still not certain what's a record and what isn't? Then work through the following questions:

         Step 1: Determine the purpose, value, and adequacy of the documentation.

What is the purpose of the documentation?

  • Was the material mandated by statute, administrative rule, or any other state or federal regulation?
  • Does the material support a financial or legal claim or obligation?
  • Is the material required to operate the department's programs or provide program support functions?
  • Was the material created or received in the conduct or transaction of official University business?

What is the value of the documentation?

Is the documentation adequate?

  • Does the material provide evidence of, or verify:
    • the department's actions that ensure its continuity?
    • the department's actions that demonstrate the consistency of those actions?
    • formulation of policies, procedures, or decisions?
    • board, committee, or staff meeting minutes?
  • Does the material protect University and individual rights and interests (financial, legal, or other)?
  • Does the material provide information required by statute, or any other state or federal regulations?

Step 2: Ask yourself the following series of questions:

  1. Have you answered "yes" to any of the questions in Step 1?
  2. Are you or your department the creator or office of record for such documentation?
  3. Did you comment or take action on the document?
  4. Is the retention of the document necessary to support the decision trail of your comment or action?
  5. Have you answered "no" to all the questions in Step 1?
  6. Does the material consist of non-official or private information which pertains solely to an individual's own affairs and does not relate to or have an effect upon the conduct of the department's business?


Official Records

  1. Any documentation related to the department's official duties or activities. Examples may include:
    • Decision papers
    • Correspondence:
      • Memoranda
      • Letters
      • E-messages
    • Data files
    • Reports
    • Official Publications
    • Supporting materials sufficient to document and/or explain the document trail/decision making process for administrative, legal, fiscal, programmatic, and historical purposes.
  2. Official records may be original materials or copies of original materials - regardless of media or format. These records must be maintained for the period specified on the University's Records Retention Schedule.  If required, some of these official records may need to be transferred to University Archives.  


Non-Records or ROT (Redundant, Obsolete or Trivial/Transitory Information)

  1. Materials that do not contribute to an understanding of the department's operations or decision-making process.
  2. Materials that have no substantial administrative or operational value.
  3. Extra copies of official records retained elsewhere that serve as:
    • Convenience copies kept solely for ease of access and reference.
    • Information/Reference copies of records sent to individuals or
      departments that are interested in, but not acting upon, the information.
    • Technical reference documents needed for general information.
    • Diaries and journals not prepared for transaction of official business
    • Papers accumulated by an employee prior to employment with the department
    • Privately purchased books and publications that do not relate to official business

You may dispose of non-record materials when you no longer need them.


Key Concepts

  • Office of Record - Office, division, or department that is responsible for maintaining the record copy (official copy) of the material.

  • Official Business - Activities associated with the department's primary functions as well as activities that document administrative matters.

  • Regardless of Physical Form or Characteristics - The content and context of the material is what determines whether it's a record or not.   The physical form, media, or format is irrelevant. Even a sticky note can be a record if it documents the official transaction of business.

  • Value of Records

    • Administrative or operational value - materials that assist the department in performing its primary functions.

    • Fiscal value - materials that establish the department's financial rights and obligations.

    • Historical, informational, or research value - materials that explain or clarify the department's history.

    • Legal or evidential value - materials that demonstrate the agency's compliance with legal requirements or materials that document the department's functions, activities, or structure.


Reviewed 2023-10-13