About this glossary #

This glossary contains key words/phrases from the resources included in the Plan for the information you need wiki

This glossary defines basic, introductory but specialised terminology used in these resources. Our intention is to gather terms of general use, and adapt or redefine them in the context of these resources. Not included in the glossary are more advanced terms describing the technicalities of database management and design (e.g. multiple-value attributes).

Some references to navigate through this glossary might be useful. First, sometimes you will find an ‘=’ symbol right next to a term. This means that to us, in the context of our resource, the two terms work as synonyms. Second, at the end of a term you will sometimes find a parenthesis with the legend (see also: ‘x’, ‘y’). We use this to indicate that it might be useful for you to compare these concepts and terms, to understand their nuances and differences.

We hope to further develop this glossary to include more complex terminology in the future.

List of terms #


Arrangement (of a list)

Use of a logical order to organise your terms (e.g. alphabetical, chronological, etc.). 


Aspects of the entities and/or relationships. Attributes will be displayed as “fields” on each entity in a database. (e.g. officer: first name, last name, gender, location, shield number)  

Attribute type

The different kinds of attributes that can be used to describe an entity. According to the type of data they hold information about, attributes can be categorised in different typologies, such as: single/composite attributes, single or multiple-valued attributes, derived and complex attributes, and also qualitative or quantitative attributes. (Source: shorturl.at/buJXZ)

C #


  1. Noun. A systematic order used to organise your list of terms or categories of information (also see: “data catalogue”).
  2. Verb.  The act of organising your information based on categories that have been agreed upon with your team. This can be done in multiple formats, both digital and analog. ‘Cataloguing’ also involves the act of choosing one term over another (from your list of terms), based on clear and shared criteria, when uploading/updating content to your database (also see: “documentation”, “coding”). 


A group of objects (people, information, etc.) organised according to a particular characteristic that make them different and distinguishable from others. 


A systematic arrangement of similar things in some order according to some principle that unites and controls information from various sources. The existence of classes as part of an organised system of knowledge creates patrons to find your materials quickly and easily (e.g. political rights as a class and the right to vote as a subclass). 


We use ‘coding’ in a similar way as ‘cataloguing’: the act of systematising/cataloguing information, and creating instructions for others to follow. However, since there are several definitions of code and coding (most of them related to programming languages, or exclusive to a digital setting) we try to avoid the use of this term. 


A grouping of data that comes from the same source, like an institution. Collections (also called series) contain information that is common across all their datasets.

Conceptual data model 

A conceptual data model (also known as “conceptual schema”) is a high-level description of informational needs underlying the design of a database. It represents the main concepts in your database and the relationships between them. It is often represented in a graphical way like a flowchart or a diagram.

Controlled list of terms

A stand-alone list consisting of entries arranged in some kind of logical order in a standard style. A controlled list of terms is a list of words and phrases that will be used to index content and/or to retrieve content through browsing or searching. 

Controlled vocabulary 

A controlled vocabulary is a broad category that can include both thesauri and taxonomies. It is a set of words/terms whose meanings and uses are agreed-upon by a group so that it is possible to catalogue (index) and find information efficiently and consistently. A controlled vocabulary does not necessarily include a structure or relationship between terms of the list. 

D #

Data catalogue

A collection of data sets available online that helps its users to search, find, locate and retrieve data sets and metadata around a specific topic. 

Data dictionary

A detailed and logical description for each element of your data model or data set. It contains not only the list of terms (contents) and its format but also the structure and relationships between the elements of a database. 

In the context of a database, it can also be defined as a collection of tables with metadata, since they are used to document important and useful information such as a descriptive name, the data type, allowed values, units, and text description. 


A database is a tool that collects, compiles and structures data -in a centralised, meticulous, and systematic manner- to serve a specific purpose. It can be used both by an organisation or an individual that is not part of a company (open databases). If properly designed and managed, a database should allow users to store, access, maintain, expand, update, retrieve, and preserve the information and data(sets) that you are managing or analysing. 

Data entry (= entry) 

Database management (= information management)

Data model (= conceptual data model)


Graphical representation of entities, attributes and their logical relationships in the context of a conceptual data model. 

Documentation (of human rights violations) 

Documentation is the process of systematically recording the results of an investigation or fact-finding in relation to an event or number of events. 

Documentation is a purposeful, well-planned, and ongoing act and process which enables our communities to know, organise and understand human rights abuses. Documentation often includes the use of technology and the practice of information management. 

E #


The real-life things (people, objects, events, etc) that the database contains information about (e.g. officers, incidents, videos, prisoners, prisons).

Entity type

An entity type describes the type of the information that is being recorded. In the context of the conceptual data model, an entity type can also be understood as the top-level concepts, since they refer to the category that a particular entity belongs to, such as ‘Person’, ‘Incident’, etc. 

Entry (= )

In the context of a database, an entry is information that is entered by an individual into an information management system. You can have different types of entries in a database, such as free-text or pre-selected/pre-defined ones. 


In the context of documenting violations and according to the Events Standard Formats methodology, an event must contain at least one act qualified as a human rights violation (e.g. illegal detention, which is a violation of the right to liberty). Usually, we talk of the existence of an event when we can identify a beginning and an end of an incident, and how it progresses. It can be a single act, a series of related acts, or a combination of related acts happening together. 

F #


A database field is a set of data values, of the same data type, in a table.  It is also referred to as a column or an attribute. Fields are arranged into records, which hold all the information within the table related to a specific entity. (Source: https://teachcomputerscience.com/database-fields/


  1. N. (file format, resource format). A resource format is a standard way to show and store different kinds of information (e.g. a document, a video, etc.). File formats can be digital, unpublished or open, and either proprietary or free. 
  2. N. (controlled format). Controlled format refers to rules concerning the allowable data types and formatting of information, specially in fields where numbers or codes are used . Controlled formats “may govern the expression of characters in either a free-text field or in a field that is linked to a controlled vocabulary”. (Source: https://www.getty.edu/research/publications/electronic_publications/intro_controlled_vocab/what.pdf). (Also see: “controlled vocabulary”, “controlled list of terms”). 

G #


In the context of this resource, granularity refers to the level of detail in a data structure. It operates as a rule or characteristic for determining your controlled list of terms. 

I #


An event in the form of a human rights violation that responds and can be documented according to the formula ‘who did what to whom’ to describe what happened. 

Information management (system) 

A system or infrastructure set up to manage information, usually a computer-based system. The management of this system is used for coordinating, storing, controlling, preserving, analysing and visualising information.  The set up of such a system will also take into account the cycle and nature of your activities: the acquisition, the custodianship, the distribution, and disposal of your information. 

L #

List (= controlled list of terms)

M #


Data that describe the characteristic details of a file, term or other piece of information. Metadata can be automatically generated and embedded in the file, such as with technical metadata, or it can be manually recorded on an external medium, such as with descriptions and keywords in a database. Source: https://archiving.witness.org/archive-guide/create/how-capture-metadata/ 

P #


The person (individual or group) who commits an act that constitutes a violation, using either armed or abstract mechanisms (e.g. lawmaking). For this reason, perpetrators can be state or non-state entities. More information: https://huridocs.org/community-resources/how-human-rights-are-violated/

Q #

Query (database)

Though the common use of this term is related to SQL, we use ‘query’ to simply refer to the questions that you want  your database to be able to answer. 

R #

Raw data

Refers to data that has not been changed since it was acquired.  


A (complete) description of any entity of your database (a thing, person, event, etc.), consisting of data entered in a set of fields (also see: “event”, “entry”).


Elements of a conceptual data model that show how different types of entities are associated with each other. The existence of a relationship is often expressed by the presence of a verb between nouns or entities (e.g. prisoner detained at prison). 

Repository (= data repository, metadata repository)

A place that holds and organises data from a particular subject (e.g. human rights, court sentences, etc.) in a logical manner, making it available for use. In some cases, repositories also allow users (or researchers) to submit data. 

Examples: https://guides.library.harvard.edu/c.php?g=309952&p=2070368 

S #


In the context of this resource, specificity refers to the level of analysis of terms. This term is included as a characteristic of your controlled list of terms in the sense that the terms in a list must be equal in specificity. For example, the terms “apple” and “banana” are on the same level of analysis, whereas the term “fruit” is on another level. The terms “apple” and “fruit” do not have the same specificity. 


Scope refers to defining the range of your project’s goals. When we talk about scope, we are not referring just to what kind of information you are going to collect or not, its relevance, or how deep you will dig into this, but also about organisational capacities, expertise and experience, technological background, among others. All these elements define your scope as they interact with determining the breadth and depth of the information you are going to manage. 

T #


Typically, a taxonomy is a controlled vocabulary with a hierarchical structure, generally used for a defined domain (only preferred terms of a controlled vocabulary). Terms within a taxonomy have relations among them. In general, these are parent/child (broader/narrower) relationships. A taxonomy may differ from a thesaurus in that it generally has shallower hierarchies and a less complicated structure.


The name given to any concept to make it distinguishable from others (it is unambiguous). 


A list of subject headings or descriptors usually with a cross-reference system for use in the organisation of a collection of documents for reference and retrieval.

U #

User persona

A fictional representation of a user, inspired by either fictional characters and actual people or roles on your team, used to understand your users’ needs, experiences, behaviours and goals, and containing key information about them (e.g. occupation, resources, skills, needs, goals). 

V #


A piece of information (such as a country’s name, a victim’s age or a prison’s address) entered into a field that usually varies from record to record. 

Violation (of human rights)

An act that infringes on a person’s rights (individual or group), whether by omission or commission. Traditionally, States have been made responsible for failing to ensure the respect, protection and fulfilment of rights. Today, some of these obligations are legally binding for non-state actors (such as firms, armed groups, etc.) as well. 

Even though violations can be documented using specific typologies of human rights (such as economic, environmental, civic, or cultural rights), rights are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent, and multiple actors can be held responsible for their fulfilment.
More information: https://huridocs.org/community-resources/how-human-rights-are-violated

Vocabulary (= controlled vocabulary)

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