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Conducting a Records Survey

To view the University's Records Management Policy, please visit the "University Record Retention and Disposition" site on SharePoint (Faculty and staff please use your NUNet credentials. The site is also accessible through myNortheastern > Services and Links > Faculty/Staff > University Record Retention and Disposition). If you have any questions, please contact the Office of Compliance and Risk Services (insurance [at]


The purpose of a records survey is to identify all the records series (def.) created by an office or unit and the extent and nature of their use. It is an opportunity to discover and remedy current record keeping problems and to anticipate and avoid future ones.

Steps of a Records Survey

1. Analyze the functions of the office or department
2. Identify the records that document these functions
3. Survey the records that exist in the office or department
4. Schedule records for disposition according to the documentation plan
5. Transfer records to the Archives or destruction

1. Analyze the Functions of the Office or Department
Functional analysis of a department leads to an understanding of its place in the larger institution according to what it does, rather than by where it appears on the organization chart. From this understanding, it is possible to identify the unique records that are held or created by the department. Information about the fuction of a department is often found in its mission statement or procedure manuals. Here is a checklist of questions to help departments analyze their functions.

2. Identify the records that document these functions
Using the results of the functional analysis checklist of questions, records series that document the most important aspects of the department are identified. These records are called the core records series (def.).

3. Survey the records that exist in the office or department
The survey involves physically inventorying the records in the department at the record series level. The presence or absence of records previously identified as being core records series is particularly noted. Information about the records series surveyed are listed on a records survey form. The results of the record survey are compiled into a documentation plan (def.). The documentation plan identifies specific records series for preservation.

4. Schedule records for disposition according to documentation plan
The University Records Retention and Disposition Schedules (Faculty and staff please use your NUNet credentials.) are consulted to determine the retention period for non-permanent records, and to assist a department in determining how long to keep permanent records in the office before sending them to the Archives.

5. Transfer records to the Archives or for destruction
This process is explained in the section Transferring Records to the Archives.

Checklist of Questions for Departmental Analysis

1. What are the department's functions?
2. Is the department organized into divisions or sections?
3. Does the department operate special programs?
4. What are the department wide committees?
5. What is unusual or unique about the department?
6. What is most important to document about the department?
7. What records series document this?
8. What electronic systems are used in the department?
9. Does the department generate:

a. Departmental organization charts?

b. Annual reports?

c. Policy and procedure manuals?

d. Committee minutes?

e. Photographs or other audiovisual materials?

f. Departmental newsletters, brochures, information sheets or other publications?

g. Records of teaching activities?

h. Records of research activities?

i. Student records other than official student records?

10. Are there non-current departmental records stored in places other than the office filing areas? If so where?
11. Has a departmental history or overview ever been written?


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