Tip Sheet 1 - Recordkeeping Basics

York University is subject to policy and legislation that allows individuals to request access to university records. The following tips may help to make your unit’s records “access-ready”.

Be informed: identify university records

A record includes recorded information in any format and any copy of that information. Records can include minutes, correspondence, maps and diagrams, notes, email, voicemail and so on.

University records are those records within the University’s custody or control. They include records relating to the University’s operation and administration and records containing information relating to individual faculty, staff and students. University records may be the subject of a request for access.

Be aware: identify non-university and personal records

Non-university records usually include such items as research and study notes, teaching materials, publications and personal communications of individual faculty, staff and students.

It may be useful to mark your personal records as “personal”.

Be proactive: create records with access in mind

Create records with the expectation that they may be disclosed:

  • Omit unnecessary information. Collect and record only the information needed to accomplish a task or meet a requirement.
  • Don’t assume that if it is possible for access to be withheld to a group of records, that access will be withheld as a matter of routine.

Remember that most email messages on university servers are university records; keep them brief and businesslike. Email messages that document actions or decisions should be stored with access in mind; they should be filed so that they can be accessed easily when required (see Tip Sheet 5 on Email Management).

Be objective: records should be factual, objective and include only what is relevant

Keep minutes and other formal records of proceedings factual. Record decisions taken or tasks resulting from a group’s deliberations. Avoid unnecessary detail.

State views, comments and opinions as objectively as possible. Remember that individuals can request access to their personal information, which can include the views or opinions of another person about the individual.

Avoid recording gratuitous or unsubstantiated comments and opinions as part of university records:

  • If you make notes to document a conversation or discussion, avoid including unnecessary subjective comments or unneeded questions, or rewrite your notes to remove any unnecessary or subjective references.
  • Use humour with caution in written communication; it may not be understood out of context or at a later date.

Be organized: don’t retain transitory records

Transitory records include notes, working papers and preliminary drafts – paper or electronic – created for a temporary purpose.

  • Once the final version of a report or other record is prepared, earlier drafts and working materials should usually be destroyed. Exceptions include drafts which form part of negotiations, such as draft contracts and other agreements, or versions that show major changes in policy or approach.
  • Transitory records can also include convenience/duplicate copies of correspondence or reports and “snapshot” printouts or extracts from a database.

Do not retain these materials after task or operational need ends.

See Tip Sheet 3 on Transitory Records for more examples of transitory material.

Maintain security: protect records against unauthorized access.

Protect information against unauthorized access through “need to know” access only, physical security measures, and procedures that are appropriate to the sensitivity, volume and medium of the records.

Treat confidential records confidentially: mark them appropriately.

See Tip Sheet 2 on Confidential Records for more information on handling confidential records.

This document has been developed to assist in establishing good practices and procedures. Additional questions or requests for advice on records and information management or information and privacy issues should be referred to the Information and Privacy Coordinator: info.privacy@yorku.ca.