Authority File (Flat Vocabulary)

Definition, description of authority files

Flat VocabulariesA managed list of acceptable metadata terms that associates acceptable values with particular metadata elements. Flat vocabularies include authority files, glossaries, dictionaries, code lists, and gazetteers. Related Guide Multi -Level Vocabularies Relational VocabulariesManaged list of acceptable terms that makes use of relationships between metadata terms. Relational vocabularies include thesauri, semantic networks and ontologies. Related Guide
Authority File Glossary Dictionary Gazetteer Code List Taxonomy Subject Heading Thesaurus Semantic Network Ontology

Definition of Authority File

A type of flat controlled vocabulary consisting of a list of labels and values that establish the acceptable values that can be inserted into a particular parameter.


No explanation or augmenting information is given about the acceptable values. To implement an authority file, project managers must have a clear understanding of both the metadata parameter and the domain in which the authority file is applicable.

Example - Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI)

<xs:simpleType name="DCMIType">

<xs:restriction base="xs:Name">
<xs:enumeration value="Collection"/>
<xs:enumeration value="Dataset"/>
<xs:enumeration value="Event"/>
<xs:enumeration value="Image"/>
<xs:enumeration value="InteractiveResource"/>
<xs:enumeration value="Service"/>
<xs:enumeration value="Software"/>
<xs:enumeration value="Sound"/>
<xs:enumeration value="Text"/>
<xs:enumeration value="PhysicalObject"/>

Notice, to implement this appropriately, you would need to know that DCMI stands for Dublin Core Metadata Initiative, and Type is one of the 15 required metadata parameters. Dublin Core can be widely implemented, as it contains very broad parameters and values. This particular Authority File is presented in XML format. It was distributed in this format via the web by the managing body.

Suggested Citation

Neiswender, C. 2011. "Authority File (Flat Vocabulary)." In The MMI Guides: Navigating the World of Marine Metadata. Accessed July 16, 2020.