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How do terms and definitions get into the UCF’s dictionary?

For purposes of this discussion, the word “term” refers to a single entry into our dictionary. The terms Hobson, Choice, and Hobson’s Choice are all considered a single term in a dictionary.

We run into this question a lot, especially when dealing with authors of Authority Documents that like to make up their own definitions for well known terms, or who like to create derivative terms for other well known terms.

The answer is simple: usage.

To decide which words to include in the dictionary and to determine what they mean, the UCF editors study the language as it’s used in the Authority Documents they belong to. We maintain a full working dictionary, and track each Authority Document’s Citation Guidance to tag which words are used most often, how they are used, and the definitions that are provided.

Every single day our editors spend eight to ten hours reading and tagging Authority Documents.

Authority Document Glossaries and Legal Definitions

As each new Authority Document is added to the UCF’s catalog, we check to see if it has a section for legal definitions (if it is a law or regulation) or if it has a glossary (if it is any other type of Authority Document. Of course there are international and national standards bodies that publish full-on glossaries for their topics, and we track those too.

Tagging and adding terms

Once we find an Authority Document that is providing formal definitions, we tag those terms, noting any particular spelling, capitalization, and acronyms associated with the term.

We then enter the found term into our dictionary’s “did you mean” elastic search engine so that an entry of “colour” will also find “color”, an entry for “key-logger” will also find “key logger” and “key logger”. The idea behind the elastic search engine is that it allows us to add term variants and attribute those variants to the same standardized term.

Adding non-standard terms

If we find a match through our elastic search to an existing term in our dictionary, we check the new term’s definition to see if it matches the existing definition. If it does we have one of two choices; either the existing term has been put into use already by being included in tagged Controls or Citation Guidance, or it hasn’t (some times terms get added to our dictionary through a Glossary, but are never used in a Citation or Control). If the term hasn’t been put into use yet, we check how many times the new term was used in the Authority Document in question. Based on our research, the new term either goes in as the new standard way of spelling the word or phrase, or it goes in as a non-standard variant.

Adding definitions

When adding terms through an Authority Document’s Glossary or legal definitions, we are provided with the term’s definition(s) in the Authority Document. We add the definition into our dictionary mapping program as we find it, and then tag that definition as belonging to a certain term type.

Term types

Simple term types are nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. The term report for example, has multiple definitions. One is a verb (to present something), one is a simple noun (the sound of gunshot produces a report), and the other is a more complex noun of the type record example (the report was presented to the board). The UCF adds term type definitions for every auditable data element within the UCF, including record examples, roles, organizations, assets, configurable items, configuration settings, data contents, tasks, functions, etc.

The authority of definitions

A constant problem we run into is when an Authority Document (usually a best practice guide or contractual obligation) decides that they are going to use a term out of definitional context and provide a definition for the term that doesn’t fall into line with either legal definitions that take precedence or common practice.

When the UCF team adds definitions from Authority Document Glossaries, we follow a very strict hierarchy for term definitions.

Legal definitions through vendor definitions

If a law, regulation, or court of law defines a term in an Authority Document, we use the definition as written. Period. It is law and that is the highest status for definitions in the UCF’s dictionary.

If an international standard defines a term in a formal glossary, we add the definition to the UCF’s dictionary if and only if it is not in conflict with a definition provided by a law, regulation, or court of law.

Without going in to each and every Authority Document type, we follow the same methodology of adding terms from Authority Document glossaries from top to bottom in the following order:

  1. Bill or Act
  2. Regulation or Statute
  3. International or National Standard
  4. Self-Regulatory Body Requirement
  5. Federal or State Organizational Directive
  6. International Safe Harbor
  7. Contractual Obligation
  8. Generally Accepted Audit Guideline
  9. Best Practice Guideline
  10. Vendor Documentation

If an Authority Document that is Vendor Documentation has a glossary definition to be added, the glossary definition either has to be completely new, or not in conflict with definitions provided by Authority Documents in every category above it.