Classification Systems

Page last updated 02/06/20

What does "classify" mean?

In the broadest sense, "classification" refers to a systematic grouping of like items according to similar characteristics, purpose, or value, usually in a hierarchy from general to more specific.

Microsoft Outlook uses a simple classification system:

  • Messages are automatically classified as "received" in your Inbox and as "sent" in the Sent folder.
  • Junk mail, clutter, drafts, and deleted items are automatically filed in their folders.

(You may have developed your own classification system under the "Inbox" by creating subfolders and rules to route messages into their proper folders.)

In information security, "classification" refers to levels of protection needed for the type of information being stored. KSU Data Security Policy provides guidance on the "appropriate usage and security of confidential and sensitive information."

Ways to classify (group and arrange) records and information

Within a team environment, files need to named and arranged in a logical order for efficiency of retrieval, processing, and reference. Any one or combination of the following methods may best serve your department's needs:Folder hierarchy sample

  • Alphabetic or alphanumeric
  • Business vs. personal
  • Chronological
  • Disposition (permanent vs. temporary)
  • Geographic location
  • Origin or provenance
  • Physical medium (paper, film, magnetic disk)
  • Record format (text, audio, video, database, etc.)
  • Retention period
  • Sensitivity level (access restrictions)
  • Sequential (numerical)
  • Status (active vs. inactive, current vs. non-current)
  • Subject matter – dictionary arrangement
  • Subject matter – encyclopedic arrangement
  • User or team name or unique ID (profile, rights)

Why classification is important

  • To find the needle in the haystack
  • To provide context to individual items
  • To separate the clutter from the gems
  • To make life better (trust me on this one)