Metadata Part 2 – Full-Text Searching Maximizes its RM Benefits

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As a topic in records management, metadata is everywhere. There’s a ton of information available, but it may still be tough for some people to figure out exactly what metadata is and how to put it to best use in their RM program.

The first part of this blog post explained what metadata is and how it works in a real-world context, specifically with electronic folder structures. This post looks at an on-going debate about metadata—namely, is it necessary for departments with full-text searching capabilities?

1.0 Metadata vs. Full-Text Searching

Full-text searching is a popular and useful feature of many electronic records management solutions. Users can enter one or more words into the search interface and the system retrieves all records that contain that string of characters anywhere in their content.

Not only does this reduce the effort required to identify and enter more structured metadata, but by virtually reading the body of each record, these searches are also more comprehensive in their results.

Little wonder then that full-text search capabilities are sometimes used as an argument against more manual metadata entry processes.

2.0 The Challenges of Full-Text Searching

The main issue with full-text searching is that unless a user is looking for a very precise string of text, such as an identification number or company name, the results can be very imprecise, producing dozens or even hundreds of useless hits.

Full-text searching by itself makes no provision for the business function and other important context in which a record is created or received, ignoring much of the fundamental thinking that underlies any successful RM program.

Full-text searching, however, should not be seen as unhelpful. It can and should be a critical tool for records retrieval, whether for day-to-day business requirements or in more serious situations, such as legal discoveries.

It does, however, work best when combined with the more structured collection of indexing metadata, such as business function classification, subject keyword or other identified information retrieval elements.

Incorporating metadata into your RM program requires careful planning, but also has the potential to revolutionize how you organize, search and retrieve information inside your organization, and to help in the application of RM best practices.

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