Use a Consistent Approach to Include Valid Values and Reference Data in a Glossary Definition

Use a Consistent Approach to Include Valid Values and Reference Data in a Glossary Definition

HubSpot_colorful-markers-2-ValidLists_BPAn earlier blog post summarized a method that listed 6 components to consider when writing a good business glossary definition.   Another earlier post discussed the first component which is "uniqueness within a category or description". In this blog post I want to discuss the fourth component in more detail.  This component, "Add Valid Value Lists or Reference Data Lists", benefits from a standardized approach.

A valid value list or a reference data list is a set of possible values permissible to use in a data field.  A valid value list is usually defined locally.  A reference data list is usually defined and maintained by a third party, and formally adopted for local use within an organization.  Two examples of a reference list that would be locally adopted include Dun & Bradstreet’s list of company names and the US Postal Service list of state name abbreviations.

This fourth component discussed in today's post provides several approaches that help the definition writer be consistent in listing or referencing valid values and reference lists. 

1. If the list is short, fewer than 8 items, include the list at the end of the definition and label it unambiguously as a complete list.  For example:

Enrollment Status
The status of a student with regard to registration for a term.  Values are: Registered; Study Abroad; Probation; Withdrawn.

2. If the list is too long to list all of the items, use a URL to point to the list published elsewhere. This URL source should be accessible to all or to most readers without additional logins.  For example:

Academic Program
An instructional program leading to a degree or resulting in credits that can be applied to a degree.  View the complete list of 42 programs at

3. Identify the office or role of the person who owns the list.  This encourages the reader to ask the owner for a copy of the list or to pose questions to the list owner.  This option can be used when the list owner does not want the list widely available or when the list changes frequently. For example:

An administrative grouping of people with a common business purpose.  Contact the Human Resources office for a list of departments.

4. Provide example usage. Use careful labeling to indicate it is a sample list.  This choice is a good one to use when the list varies by department or school within an organization. For example:

Academic Division
A group of academic disciplines that form a substantive branch of knowledge.  Examples include: humanities, social science, natural science, engineering, medicine, and nursing.

Hope this blog post provides you useful information regarding valid value lists or reference data lists.  If you need help in implementing data governance, remember that IData provides data governance services.  A data governance solution like the Data Cookbook can help in successful implementation of data governance at an organization and improving data quality.  Feel free to Contact Us.

(image credit HubSpot_colorful-markers-2-ValidLists_BP #1113)

Brenda Reeb
About the Author

Brenda is a consultant in data management, data governance, and the information needs of users. She has over 20 years' experience providing services and solutions in higher education. Brenda has designed and implemented data management policies, established workflows, and created metadata. She is an experienced advocate for data management at all levels of an organization.

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