About the National Archives

Information Quality Guidelines


Information Quality Guidelines

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) provides information to the public about archival records, NARA programs and services, NARA organization and management, and the activities of the Federal Government through the Office of the Federal Register.

Our mission is to ensure ready access to the essential evidence that documents the rights of American citizens, the actions of Federal officials, and the national experience.

Our information products are used by governments, historians, journalists, professional researchers, educators, and the general public. NARA information products are used to:

  • discover the documentation of the rights of American citizens, the actions of Federal officials and agencies, and the national experience;

  • learn about programs and services provided by NARA;

  • determine NARA's organization, achievements, activities, goals and products; and

  • find information on Federal agency rules, regulations, proposed rules, and notices.

Quality standards will be established and met at levels appropriate to the nature and timeliness of the information to be disseminated. The specific quality standards that NARA adopts in a particular case will be appropriate for the category of information being disseminated.

We develop the information that we disseminate from reliable sources and use generally accepted methods for data collection, archival description, and editorial preparation. We thoroughly review information before we disseminate it.

The guidelines describe procedures that we use to assure the quality of our information products, including their utility, objectivity, and integrity.

Influential Information

Under OMB's guidelines, "influential scientific, financial, or statistical information" means that the agency can reasonably determine that dissemination of the information will have or does have a clear and substantial impact on important public policies or important private sector decisions.

There is an added level of scrutiny afforded to influential information, to include the need to ensure that it is reproducible.

While the information in NARA's archival holdings, records centers, and the Office of the Federal Register's legal publications--which are exempted from these guidelines--could be influential, NARA does not disseminate influential information in our own information products.

Information Utility

Utility involves the usefulness of the information to its intended users. Utility is achieved by staying informed of information needs and developing new information products, and revising and updating existing information products when appropriate.

Through internal analyses of information requirements, the work of internal committees, and outreach activities, NARA keeps abreast of information needs.

Based on internal product reviews, consultation with users, and in response to changing needs and emphases, we enhance the content of existing information products, introduce new products, and discontinue others. When new information products are proposed, the proposals are reviewed and evaluated by qualified staff. We regularly review existing information products to ensure that they remain relevant and address current information needs.

Where appropriate, we provide contact information on each publication to allow you to submit feedback and questions. In addition, we provide an online Contact NARA form accessible from the bottom of most pages on the NARA website. We also provide NA Form 14045 "How were Our Services?" in our facilities nationwide. All of these methods allow you to submit input that helps us to improve information product development.

Our information products are disseminated in the format or formats that make the information most useful and accessible for you. We write them in compliance with the President's June 1, 1998 Memorandum on Plain Language in Government Writing and the NARA Style Guide to ensure that they will be useful to you.

Information Objectivity

Objectivity involves a focus on ensuring accurate, reliable, and unbiased information. Objectivity is achieved:

  • as a matter of presentation, by ensuring that information products are presented in an accurate, clear, complete, and unbiased manner; and

  • as a matter of substance, by using reliable sources, sound analytical and editorial techniques, and by having qualified people prepare information products that are carefully reviewed.
    • Use of reliable sources

      Much of the information that we disseminate relates to the archival records of the Federal Government. This information describes archival records, gives context to them, and identifies their location in NARA's facilities. Qualified NARA staff conduct ongoing reviews of these information products and the archival records that they refer to in order to ensure their accuracy and completeness.

      We base other information about our programs, services, organization, and management on data produced by the responsible NARA unit. Information that we disseminate on a program, service, or product is derived from data maintained by the NARA unit with administrative responsibility for that program, service, or product.

      NARA management and administrative data are maintained in the Performance Measurement Reporting System (PMRS). The PMRS measures our programs' performance in delivering goods and services to our customers, and is the official source for statistical information about NARA. Data is reported by different NARA units, and only the units who originally entered the data change any data values. Management regularly checks the data for quality and the Office of the Inspector General on a routine basis audits the data and processes.

      Staff producing information products based on this data are knowledgeable about the content and limitations of this data and maintain a working relationship with the staff who create, update, and submit this data.

  • Preparation of information products

    We base the information contained in NARA information products on data derived from reliable sources. NARA staff are knowledgeable about the data sources that we use, and we apply sound archival, analytical, or statistical techniques, when needed, depending on the data being addressed.

    We prepare information about archival records using standard techniques for description of the different forms of archival materials. Archival description is used to describe the organization, content, context, and location of archival materials. We make an effort not to introduce bias or subjectivity into our descriptions of archival records, and leave analysis of the records to the researcher.

    Qualified staff review our information products to ensure that the information and any analysis are valid, complete, unbiased, objective, and relevant. Subject matter experts outside of the originating unit may also review those information products that are considered to be more complex, to provide additional perspective and expertise.

    We identify the data sources that were used to prepare information products, where appropriate.

  • Editorial review for accuracy and clarity of information in publications

    We edit and proofread our information products before release to ensure clarity and coherence of the final product. We edit text to ensure that the product is easy to read and grammatically correct, thoughts flow logically, and information is worded concisely and clearly. We edit tables and charts to ensure that they clearly and accurately illustrate and support points made in the text, and include short but descriptive titles.

    Appropriate NARA staff review and approve changes made to a product during the editing process.

  • Policy for correcting errors

    If we detect an error before information is disseminated, we correct the error or include a correction notice, if necessary. If information has already been disseminated, we correct or include a notice of the correction with subsequent publication of the information. The NARA unit that originally issued an information product on the website tracks and records any correction to it. When appropriate, we post correction notices on our website as well as posting the corrected information.

Information Integrity

Integrity refers to the security of information from unauthorized access or revision to ensure that information is not compromised through corruption or falsification.

To ensure the integrity of our information, we are implementing controls that have been identified as representing sound security practices as required by the Government Information Security Act (Pub.L. 106-398, Title X, Subtitle G), with the goal of providing coverage to all major components of information security.

NARA is subject to statutory requirements to protect the information that we gather and maintain. These requirements are contained in the following documents:

Paperwork Reduction Act Submissions

The Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995 requires agencies to plan for the development of new collections of information from the public and for the extension of ongoing collections.

Agencies must submit proposals for such collections to OMB, which approves or rejects the proposal for the collection of information from the public. Agencies are required to demonstrate the practical utility of a proposed collection of information in their PRA submissions, for draft information collections designed to gather information that the agency plans to disseminate.

NARA will demonstrate in our Paperwork Reduction Act clearance packages that each draft information collection will result in information that will be collected, maintained, and used in a way consistent with the OMB and NARA information quality guidelines.