Encoding schemes, more readily known as drop down menus or pick lists, ensure that acceptable metadata values can be assigned and that the incidence of errors can be reduced. They are designed to be machine readable.

This document form metadata scheme establishes record types common to most organisations in the NSW public sector. This is a modified version of the same scheme in the Australian Government recordkeeping metadata standard (D21). In addition, some specific document forms for NSW government, councils, public health services and universities have been defined.

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Purpose of the scheme

Implementing a ‘document form’ (record type) scheme means there is additional ability to retrieve information. For example, your organisation might need to retrieve all emails between particular dates for a discovery order, or all plans for a particular project.  An action officer may not remember a title for a record but they know it is a ‘sound recording’ or a ‘report’ and can use this for retrieval.

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Implementation of the scheme

Organisations should implement the scheme in a way that suits local technologies and ways of doing business. For example, it might be implemented:

  • by including a tailored version as a drop down list to be used when registering a record in an electronic document and records management system (EDRMS)
  • as a set of tags for tagging information resources in an business system using web 2.0 technologies, such as a collaboration tool
  • as a guide to the creation of a suite of templates for the creation of records that have inbuilt titling and classification.
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Issues with the scheme

The scheme is quite extensive and contains a mixture of different ‘document forms’. Some define media/format (e.g. sound recording), others are specific business types (e.g. agenda) and others are generic types (e.g. form).

There is the potential that the scheme can be made repeatable - that more than one document form may apply. For example, a guideline may be available on a webpage. In this case the organisation can use the terms ‘guideline’ or ‘webpage’ (or both) to ‘tag’ the item depending on their business needs.

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Adaption to the needs of particular organisations

Usage of some of these terms will differ considerably across different organisations, even within the NSW public sector. For example, one organisation may use ‘Instruction’ while another uses ‘Procedure’ to describe the same record type. Another organisation may have a more specific term like ‘Standard Operating Procedure.’ The scheme can be adjusted by different organisations to account for such usage.

While our intention is to make the terms and their definitions in the scheme as accurate as possible to current practice, some of the issues discussed above may only be addressed by the organisation adapting the scheme for their own use. This may include tightening descriptions for terms in line with organisational usage, removing terms that are irrelevant to the organisation, adding other organisation-specific terms to the scheme and defining how many terms documents should be ‘tagged’ with.

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Suggestions welcome

State Records welcomes any suggestions, comments or additions to this scheme, bearing in mind that this is a recommended basic set of terms applicable to all public offices (or to particular jurisdictions in the case of Tables 2, 3, 4 and 5) and that the scheme may still be extended to include terms specific to a particular organisation.

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Table 1: Document Form Scheme (extensible) – General

Document form Scope
Agenda A list of issues or activities used as a schedule or program for an event, conference, forum or meeting.
Agreement A summary or record of an arrangement between two or more parties.
Use Contract for a binding legal agreement in the form of a contract.
Blog A website with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order.
Blog post An entry made on a blog. See Blog for further information.
Brief A request for a consultant to undertake a job.
Use Briefing note for a report that gives the recipient information to make informed decisions or to be up-to-date about an issue.
Use Project brief for a statement that describes the purpose, cost, time performance requirements and constraints of a project.
Briefing note

A report that either gives the recipient the information they need to know to make an informed decision or provides information so the recipient is up-to-date on an issue.

Use Brief for a request for a consultant to undertake a job.

Business plan A blueprint for how a business will run and what future direction the business will take.
Cabinet Minute A minute controlled and circulated under The Department of Premier and Cabinet's direction and supervision to authorised recipients only.
Checklist A written enumeration of actions to be taken, meant to aid memory rather than provide detailed instruction.
Use Dataset for bibliographic data or catalogues.
Use Index for a listing of items or entries provided for reference or navigation purposes.
Contract A binding, legal agreement between two or more parties for the delivery of a product, provision of a service or management of a resource.
Use Agreement for other for a summary or record of an arrangement between two or more parties which is not legally binding.
Dataset Structured information encoded in lists, tables, databases etc (for example spreadsheets, databases, GIS data). Data may be numeric, spatial, spectral, statistical or structured text (including bibliographic data and database reports).
Diary Information arranged in calendar order documenting appointments and engagements.
Use Journal for information arranged in calendar order documenting events, business or proceedings.
Digital certificate Any form of electronic code that describes or provides permission to access a resource.
Digital signature Any form of electronic code used to simulate the security properties of a handwritten signature or to establish authenticity.
Drawing A sketch or design made with pen, pencil or crayon.
Use Plan for a drawing made to scale to represent a structure, machine or building.
Electronic message Any electronically mediated communication. This includes electronic mail, text messages, instant messages, electronic voice messages, electronic video messages and computer conferencing, but excludes scanned versions of written or printed messages.
Enquiry A request for information.


A copy or reproduction of an item that is as true-to-the-original source as possible. A facsimile transferred by means of a telecommunications technology operating over the telephone network is also known colloquially as a ‘fax’.
Fact sheet A summary of information about a product, service, organisation, event or topic.
Form A structured solicitation of input from a user (for example, comments, a survey or an order).
Government Gazette A regular formal publication produced by government that may include vacancies, appointments, bulletins, notices and legislative directives.
Guidelines The primary purpose of the resource is to present factual information advice or guidance about an organisation, event or service. Most general advisory pages on government websites will be of this document type.
Use Instruction for resources that provide direction rather than information.
Homepage The introductory page or major entry point for a site on the internet. In most cases an organisation will have only one resource of this document type, except where there is likely to be a public perception that a distinct business unit standard alone as an organisational entity.
Use Web page for lower-level pages and Blog for a website blog.
House notes Documents compiled for Ministers attending Parliament which provide brief outline of departmental functions or particular issues.
Index Any listing of items or entries provided for reference or navigation purposes, including an inventory, register or directory.
Use Checklist for a written enumeration of actions to be taken.
Instruction Resources in which the primary purpose is to provide instructions or directions (for example, how to write a report or how to register for a service). Includes manuals, handbooks, tutorials and quizzes.
Use Guidelines for resources that have primarily informational content.
[Note: Should be distinguished from Procedure or removed if Procedure is a more suitable term for the organisation.]
Invoice A written list of merchandise, with prices, delivered or sent to a buyer.
Journal A record or register of events, business or proceedings.
Use Diary for information arranged in calendar order documenting appointments and engagements.
Lease A written agreement where the owner of an asset grants a second party the right to its possession and use for a specified period and under specified conditions, in return for periodic payments.
Legal advice A formal opinion regarding the substance or procedure of the law by an officer of the court, ordinarily in exchange for financial or other tangible compensation.
Letter A written or printed communication addressed to a person or a number of persons, including scanned versions of written or printed communications.
Log A chronological listing of actions, observations, data or transactions.

A visual representation of an area highlighting relationships between elements of that space.

Use Plan for a drawing made to scale to represent a structure, machine or building.

Media release A resource specifically designed to provide a brief public statement on an issue or event, via the mass media.
Meeting minutes A summary record of proceedings of a formal meeting.
Memorandum A note describing something to be remembered or acted upon in the future.
Metadata Data describing the context, content, structure and organisation of records and other information.
Ministerial briefing note Formal note providing advice or information to the portfolio Minister or other government organisations on aspects of an organisation’s operations or matters concerning them.
Minute A form of correspondence acting as an official note or memorandum, usually recording an action or decision, or seeking approval for a course of action.
[Note: Should be distinguished from Memorandum or removed if Memorandum is a more suitable term for the organisation.]
Moving image A form of visual representation other than text, involving moving pictures, animation, video or film, with or without audio. For some resources it may be appropriate to use a combination of document types. (For example: video recording of an exhibition opening – specify document types as ‘promotion; moving image’).
Note for file A summary or record of a less formal meeting or ad hoc discussion (including by telephone).

A drawing made to scale to represent a structure, machine or building. Includes architectural, engineering and mechanical plans.
Use Business plan for a blueprint for how a business will run and what future direction the business will take.
Use Plan for a visual representation of an area highlighting relationships between elements of that space.

Podcast A series of digital media files (either audio or video) made available on a website for download.
Policy A major formal publication detailing a course or line of action adopted and pursued by the organisation. Includes public accountability documents such as corporate directions and other strategic plans.
Use Report for resources that convey the results of an inquiry, account for activities or document speeches and presentations.
Position description A document describing a position in detail including its purpose, functions and responsibilities and the knowledge, skills and abilities required to perform the job competently. Position descriptions are used in evaluating positions and copies are given to applicants.
Presentation Any form of visual and/or verbal communication used to show or explain a topic to an audience.
Procedure A sequence of action or instructions to be followed.
[Note: Should be distinguished from Instruction or removed if Instruction is a more suitable term for the organisation.]
Project brief A statement that describes the purpose, cost, time performance requirements and constraints of a project.
Project plan A formal accepted document outlining the aims, costs and time sequencing of a project. A project plan is signed off by key stakeholders and becomes the basis for monitoring and controlling the project.
Promotion Descriptive or marketing information about an organisation or material that promotes its products, services, activities or collections (for example, ‘What’s New’ pages, brochures). Does not include media releases.
Proposal A written offer from a seller to a prospective buyer. Includes an offer regarding work to be completed.
Purchase order A commercial document issued by a buyer to a seller, indicating types, quantities, and agreed prices for products or services the seller will provide to the buyer.
Questions on notice Notice of questions to members of Parliament, signed by a member, and handed to one of the Clerks-at-the-Table during a sitting of the House.
Questions without notice Questions asked by members rising in their place and obtaining the call of the chair (the President). Questions must seek information or press for action in relation to matters with which Ministers are officially connected, to proceedings pending in the House or to any other issues within Ministers’ responsibilities.
Quote A statement of the price of goods or services.
Register A formal, written record of acts, events, names etc, often kept in a prescribed manner.
Report An account describing organisational activity, a speech or presentation. Includes statements of the organisation’s opinion, a decision or the results of an enquiry.
Use Dataset for database reports.
Roster A list allocating names to particular tasks, duties or work times.
RSS feed A means of providing an automatic summary of frequently updated web content in a standardised format. Abbreviation of Really Simple Syndication feed.

A diagram that represents the properties of a system using abstract, graphic symbols rather than realistic pictures. A schematic usually omits all details that are not relevant to the information the schematic is intended to convey, and may add unrealistic properties that aid comprehension. For example, a subway map intended for riders may represent a subway station with a dot; the dot doesn't resemble the actual station at all but gives the viewer the information he needs without unnecessary visual clutter.

Use Still image for still visual representation including images, photographs, diagrams, maps and graphics.

Software Computer programs in source or compiled form that may be available for installation on another machine.
Sound recording Primarily audio representation that may be ambient, effects, music, narration or speech. For some audio resources it may be appropriate to use a combination of document types. (For example: sound recording of a presentation – specify document types as ‘presentation; sound recording’.)
Still image

A primarily still visual representation other than text. Includes electronic and physical representations such as images, photographs, diagrams, maps and graphics. For digital representations of physical resources, use a more specific document type where possible. (For example: a scanned media release – use ‘media release; still image’.)

Use Schematic for a diagram that represents the properties of a system using abstract, graphic symbols rather than realistic pictures.

Tender - request for quotation An invitation to suppliers to take part in a bidding process to bid on specific products or services. Often known as a RFQ.
Tender - request for tender A structured invitation to suppliers for the supply of products and/or services. Often known as an RFT.
Tweet A post or status update on Twitter, a micro-blogging service.
Web page A resource of information suitable for the internet that can be accessed through a web browser. A web page may provide navigation to other web pages via hypertext links. Use the more specific document type where possible (For example: Use ‘Home page’ for the introductory page or major entry point for a site, use ‘Wiki’ for a web page wiki).
Wiki A page or collection of web pages designed to enable anyone accessing it to contribute or modify content using a simplified markup language. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites, intranets and knowledge management systems.
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Table 2: Document Form Scheme (extensible) – NSW agencies

Document form Scope
Executive Council minutes A summary record of proceedings of a formal meeting of the Executive Council. The Executive Council consists of Ministers, presided over by the Governor. This is the formal, official arm of the Government, which gives legal authority to proclamations, regulations, appointments to the public service, judiciary, and other public positions such as officers of the Parliament, and commissions for officers of the NSW Police.

[Note: If using with Table 1 distinguish between Meeting minutes and Executive Council minutes].

Premier's Circular

A Statement of NSW Government policy. A Premier’s Circular is generally issued by the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Ministerial Memorandum

A Statement of NSW Government policy. A Ministerial Memorandum is a directive issued by the Premier to Ministers of the Government.

[Note: If using with Table 1 distinguish between Memorandum and Ministerial Memorandum].

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Table 3: Document Form Scheme (extensible) - Councils

Document form Scope
Circular to councils Instructions on significant issues requiring council's attention. Used by local government stakeholders to stay informed about issues of importance to local government in NSW.
Council meeting minutes An official record of Council meetings, kept in accordance with s.375 of the Local Government Act. A verified copy of the minutes is kept for public inspection purposes (s.12) for use in court proceedings and as a historical record. The Local Government Regulation defines what should be contained in Council Meeting Minutes.
Mayoral minutes A matter put to a Council meeting (without notice) by the Mayor regarding any issue which the Council is allowed to deal with or which the Council officially knows about. This can cover any Council function under the Act or other legislation or any other matter brought to the Council’s attention. A mayoral minute overrides any other business on the agenda for the meeting.
Practice notes

Guidance on what the Department of Local Government considers to be best practice with regard to legislative requirements and policy issues.

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Table 4: Document Form Scheme (extensible) – Public Health Services

Document form Scope

A document that provides advice or guidance but does not require compliance. May include guidelines, standards etc. Must be authorised by a Director of a Branch or more senior officer.

[Note: If using with Table 1 distinguish between Guideline and Guidelines or delete the term not used].

Information bulletin A document for distribution within the NSW public health system. Information contained in an Information Bulletin is not ‘policy’ as set by the Department. Must be authorised by a Director of a Branch or more senior officer.
Policy directive A document that contains material expected to be understood, complied with and implement by the NSW public health system. May include strategies, plans, frameworks and guidelines. Must be authorised by the Director-General or a Deputy Director-General.
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Table 5: Document Form Scheme (extensible) – Universities

Document form Scope
Academic transcript A certified record of a student's full enrolment history, results and awards obtained at the university.
Student enrolment form A document complete by a prospective student to enrol for a course of study. May includes personal and course enrolment details and additional information such as language, disabilities, previous education/ qualifications and a student declaration.

Revised February 2015

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