Office of the Chief Information Officer

United States Department of Agriculture

General Reference

These guidelines pertain to general reference information disseminated by USDA agencies and offices that helps the public in its daily activities. Examples include informational pamphlets and brochures on good nutrition, safe handling of food, and good farming practices. The information quality criteria included in USDA's General Information Quality Guidelines comprise the quality standards that USDA agencies and offices will follow in developing and reviewing general reference information and disseminating it to the public. These supplementary guidelines focus largely on making the information useful to the public.

  • Information should be relevant.
    Reference information should provide value to its intended users and effectively address the purpose for which it is produced. Identify the intended audience and the issues of concern to them to identify relevant topics of interest. 
  • Information should be presented clearly.
    Assess the level of knowledge of the target audience and present the information appropriately. Present the information in a clear, complete manner so that its intended audience can easily understand it. Keep language as simple as the subject permits. Use graphical materials in preference to additional text or statistical tables to communicate the message. Provide a point of contact to which users of the information may refer questions.
  • Information should be current.
    Reference information should be as current as possible as of the date of its dissemination, and the text should indicate appropriate dates such as date of collection, compilation, and release. Review the information periodically as appropriate to ensure that it continues to meet quality standards and is appropriately categorized.
  • The source of the information should be documented.
    Reference information that is based on the results of scientific studies, analyses, or statistical activities should identify the source of the information. Also, clearly identify the originating agency or office and provide a point of contact for questions or additional information.
  • Information should be accessible.
    Make reference information easily accessible to its intended audience and make it available in media-print, electronic, visual, audio, etc.-, which are appropriate to accomplish that objective.