What Exactly Is a Document?

Posted on: May 28, 2014

One point of confusion many people have when it comes to understanding document and records information management is the exact difference between a record and a document. The distinction can be a little confusing. According to ISO 9000:2005, from the International Organization for Standardization:

Documents and Records Defined

A document is information presented, along with the medium used to present it. For example, a document could be a drawing report, or standard published on paper, a compact disc, in a photograph, or on any other medium.

A record is a document that states the results achieved by a particular process, or that provides evidence of something that was done. Records can be used to document traceability or to provide evidence of verification.

In English, this means that a document is anything that provides information or guidance for performing work, while a record provides information about work that has already taken place. A practical example of this: a blank form is considered a document. Once the form is filled in, it becomes a record.

Documents as Records

Things start breaking down even further when you consider that certain documents can be considered records in themselves, when they are created or used to provide evidence of or support for certain actions that were taken as part of a process. Different documents as records will have different retention time requirements based on their significance to your organization.

Documents as Non-Records, But Still Valuable

Some documents do not fit the definition of a record but may still be valuable to your business. These types of documents may also have specific retention time requirements, and, as a result, you may want to create a standard for storing such documents.

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Documents as Non-Records, With Limited Value

Documents that have little long-term value and serve mostly for personal reference are considered non-records with limited value and can be discarded at will. Examples of these types of documents include:

  • Drafts of reports, documents, or files
  • Copies of reports, documents, or files made for personal reference
  • Day-to-day business communications and communications not related to job duties
  • Testing versions of software or datasets
  • Catalogues and promotional materials from vendors

Examples of Documents and Records

Examples of documents include:

  • Writing or interpretable symbols, marks, figures, or perforations on paper or any other media
  • A map, drawing, plan, or photograph
  • Any media from which sounds, images, or writing may be reproduced with or without the assistance of another article or device
  • Any media in which information is stored, whether mechanically or digitally
  • Any copy (or part of a copy) of any item listed above

Examples of records include:

  • Significant correspondence within your organization
  • Forms that have been filled in to document a process that has taken place
  • Reports
  • Committee minutes
  • Policy statements
  • Budgets
  • Memoranda

If you need assistance with document or records information management, call Quality First Imaging. We can help you sort through the more confusing aspects of RIM and document management and help ensure your business stays compliant with all requirements while reducing overhead costs and improving productivity and profitability within your organization.