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Naming Electronic Documents

A standardised naming convention for electronic records is important because it: 

  • Facilitates better access and retrieval of records;
  • Allows the sorting of documents into a logical sequence;
  • Helps users identify the items they are looking for easily;
  • Helps with any future data migration if it is decided to use a records management system for managing electronic records.

All electronic document titles should have the following three components:

Example of a correct Electronic File Name: 20130102 Minutes of the Academic Board FINAL

Date

Include a date at the beginning of the document title if it is relevant and if it would be useful to be able to sort by date in a given folder.

If using a date in a document name, the date should be written ‘back to front’ using one of the following formats, depending on which is most relevant:

  • YYYYMMDD (e.g. 20040102 for 2 January 2004)
  • YYYY or YYYY-YYYY (e.g. 2008 or 2008-2009)

For example, 2013-2014 Budget Reports or 20120322 Minutes of the Governing Body

Document Title

A document title should capture the essence of the activity that the document is about or intends to achieve (e.g. Minutes of the Academic Board or Request for Leave)

A Good title:
  • Briefly describes the document’s contents
  • Includes essential key words needed to find the document
  • Distinguishes the document from similar ones
  • Is unique
  • Avoids including the words ‘General’ or ‘Miscellaneous’
Check List

Is your title meaningful to others?

Would it allow the following two types of search to identify the document without having to open it or read it?

  • People who know that the document exists
  • People who are looking for information about a topic but do not know whether a document on that topic exists
Further tips:
  • When using a personal name in a document name give the family name first followed by the initials e.g. Smith - J A
  • If you need to use punctuation, use a hyphen
  • Document titles should use sentence case and a space to separate words, e.g. Budget Reports
Naming electronic records: Dos and Don’t’s
DoDon'ts
Be consistent when describing the same topic in different documents in one folderUse acronyms, abbreviations or internal jargon unless they are widely used and known within SOAS e.g. HESA, REF, RAE
Include the topic and any action in the titleUse special characters (e.g. @,””,&, - , :)
Use ‘sentence case’ (a mixture of upper and lower case letters as is normal in a typed sentence)Use all UPPER CASE
Include dates at the beginning of the document name when relevant. Use dates for all meetings.
If you need to use punctuation, use a hyphen

Version Number

It can be confusing if you keep multiple versions of documents. Ideally you should delete drafts once a final version has been completed, but this may not always be desirable (e.g. where it is important to have evidence of the decision-making process).

Where several versions of a document are being kept for any period of time, it will be important to differentiate them. Use the following methodology to do this:

  • Include DRAFT at the end of the filename if the document is still being worked on (e.g. 2012 Human Resources Strategy DRAFT)
  • Include the version number at the end of the filename if the version is to be kept for a period of time (e.g. 2013 Recruitment Policy V1).
  • Include FINAL at the end of the final version, (e.g. 2000 Annual Report FINAL)
Key Points
  • Use dates at the beginning of the document title if relevant and use the YYYYMMDD or YYYY format
  • Use sentence case and a space to distinguish between words
  • Give a unique and descriptive document title but be as specific as possible
  • Include a version number either DRAFT, FINAL or V1

Training and guidance

The Corporate Records Manager and Archivist (ap68@soas.ac.uk) can provide advice and training on records management at SOAS. The School’s Records Management Policy and Retention Schedule and other guidance are available online.