Is the title the most useful part of a record?

Lancastrian Rose

Coram Rege Roll of Henry VII (catalogue ref: KB 27/956)

‘A rose by any other name…’

Unlike Romeo and Juliet‘s ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’, the names we give our files and folders have a strong bearing on being able to find and use them again. When you start to see files and folders in your records systems with names that lack precision and purpose, aren’t consistent, or use jargon or acronyms, then it’s time to look (again) at titling.

Most organisations will already have guidance on how to provide good titles for folders and documents. ‘Title’, which is a mandatory metadata field for UK government, is in most cases captured automatically when we type in the name of the file as we save it into a system or create a subject line for an email. The title is also the minimum part of a record that will be displayed by search engines in response to our keyword queries.

General guidance for giving documents meaningful names, including standard formats for displaying dates and version control, is essential for enabling discovery. Embedding the practices described in the guidance into organisation culture and then monitoring its success is the ongoing job that usually falls to records and information management professionals or their delegated representatives within individual business units.

Yet there needs to be more specific guidance provided where important information is being created or stored to ensure that evidence and records are managed appropriately within their retention and disposition schedules and are available to support the business processes in which they play a key role. These more specific titling and control guidelines can be identified during a What to Keep engagement which is an essential component of any business change involving data and information.

A folder or document’s title provides it with context and gives us an understanding of the subject that it represents. Good titles help us to identify quickly what is of value in our enquiries and what can be ignored. If done well, the title helps automated classification and search applications to do what we expect them to do for us. It probably isn’t the most useful part of a record, but without a good title we may have difficulty finding it in the first place.


What to Keep

Titling guidance (PDF 673KB) see pg 28 – Naming conventions

eGMS Version 3.1 (2006) (PDF)


  1. David Matthew says:

    It is also important that staff spell the name correctly, recent entries in Discovery (one a few weeks ago) were wrong. The use of abbreviations is often un-necessary and in some cases is confusing.

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