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8. Details of Individual Metadata Elements

8.18 Description




Identifying Attributes





Defined by

Dublin Core Metadata Element Set, v1.1

Element URI

Definitional Attributes

DC Definition

An account of the content of the resource.

DC Comment

Description may include but is not limited to: an abstract, table of contents, reference to a graphical representation of content or a free-text account of the content.


To enable searching based on words or phrases.

To provide a summary for display in search result sets.

Allows for more detail than that provided by the use of a Title or File Name alone.


"Registration specifies the following metadata as a minimum: c) a title or abbreviated description..." ISO Technical Report 15489-2, s. 4.3.3

"A useable record is one that can be located, retrieved, presented and interpreted." ISO International Standard 15489-1, 7.2.5

"The primary purpose of registration is to provide evidence that a record has been created or captured in a records system, and an additional benefit is that it facilitates retrieval. It involves recording brief descriptive information or metadata about the record and assigning the record an identifier, unique within the system." ISO International Standard 15489-1, s. 9.4

"Metadata should be used to identify records and facilitate their retrievability and usability in records systems. A records system should provide ready access to all relevant records and their related metadata." ISO Technical Specification 23081-1, s. 9.2.3

"Metadata for accessibility should do the following e) document descriptive information that facilitates record use and understanding, such as descriptive keywords, abstract or précis." ISO Technical Specification 23081-1, s.

"Ongoing description is necessary to keep the records meaningful for use." ISO Technical Specification 23081-1, s.

Value Domain

Non-enumerated strings of text describing records or files.

Datatype Name



Applicable at record level and file level.


Optional at record level; optional at file level.

Relational Attributes



Encoding Scheme(s)




Conditions of Application - Record


Free text


Pre Record Declared Locked

Post Record Declared Locked


Yes, by authorized official only.


Not repeatable

Conditions of Application - File


Free text


Yes, by authorized official only.


Not repeatable

Comments and Guidance

a) Explanation of Definition/Usage

This element is intended to be a concise abstract or textual description that provides a narrative account of the scope, content, context and/or purpose of the record or file and is used to assist in the discovery of information. It is especially useful for non-textual items such as images, recordings or films. It is also useful in distinguishing records of similar titles.

This element should not be confused with the element Subject, which is derived from an enumerated list of available GC subjects.

b) Best Practices

The Government of Canada Metadata Implementation Guide for Web Resources may be used as a guideline for constructing a description.

While this element is generally applied to the record, within an EDRMS, there may be descriptions at the file level.

In the case of records, once the record is locked, there should not be any change to the value of description supplied by the user except to add to it. For this reason only, the element is modifiable.

c) Obligation

This element is deemed optional because it is not required to perform core records management procedures.

d) Default Values/Auto-populate

If feasible, the element may be auto-populated with the first 200 characters or so of the record. Or it may be auto-populated with the record's table of contents.

e) Linkages


f) Examples

en direct sur les
  1. "This record contains information that pertains to Contract #12345 and includes all supporting documentation."

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