MLA Style for Meeting Minutes?
August 18, 2010 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Is there a standard, or are there a few standards, for keeping meeting minutes?

I've been tasked to create a web application for our faculty and staff to upload meeting minutes from various committees. I get the feeling that people probably use Microsoft Word to take minutes, and that they'd be happy with a form that asks them to upload their file, and that would be it... but I'd like to, in the interest of data universality and semantics, create a form with some standard set of fields. The idea would be that the secretary of each committee would take the meeting minutes directly in the web application, and hit 'save' at the end of the meeting. We'd spit out the minutes in a nicely-formatted way, with a killer print stylesheet.

But what format to use? I can make something pretty, pretty easily, but if there's a semi-agreed-upon format for meeting minutes (preferably sponsored by some well-known institution, like PMI, or something), that would be preferred.

I know, I'm probably asking for a world of hurt by making academics conform to a standard.
I know, I'm probably asking for a world of hurt by reinventing the wheel.

But I'd like to try. :-)
posted by fvox13 to Writing & Language (8 answers total)
My first job out of college required me to sit in on the company's board meetings and take minutes for the company's general counsel (it was a small dot-com company).

The general counsel just wanted a standard outline format, something like:



If this was sufficient for a company filing to go public I'd think it is sufficient for all uses of meeting minutes.

Keeps things simple and straightforward.
posted by dfriedman at 7:06 AM on August 18, 2010

I would think you're after Robert's Rules of Order, but I've never been able to bring myself to actually read something like that. It should have some things to say on minutes though...
posted by hamandcheese at 7:20 AM on August 18, 2010

Best answer: Let me Google that for you. Lots of hits there. All based on RRO.
posted by hamandcheese at 7:22 AM on August 18, 2010

The two styles I've run into the most either involve the outline format that dfriedman mentioned and an outline format that lists what each person contributed to the topic.


1) Meeting minutes
a. dfriendman: do this
b. Phire: do that

For ease of note-taking, I favour dfriedman's method. You don't need to have a play-by-play, and it's more important to get the big idea down than to figure out who said what. If you're writing an application, I would include an "action going forward" and "person responsible" field for each subject, so it's easy to see at a glance who is accountable for what.
posted by Phire at 7:23 AM on August 18, 2010

Yeah, Robert's Rules of Order has some suggestions on this. It should be in your library. The most important thing is to get any decisions or action (although please don't say "going forward") and responsible people down. Less important are all the comments people make, although it's still good to include them.

As an academic who takes meeting minutes on a frequent basis, I would really resent this additional burden. You are talking about wasting thousands of dollars in staff time that could be spent on teaching or research for the unproven benefit of "data universality and semantics." I'm actually a big believer in well-formatted semantic data, but am having a real hard time understanding what the benefit would be here. Seriously think about the economics here, and user experience in terms of the users.

You'd be better off creating an easy-to-use Microsoft Word template and distributing that.
posted by grouse at 8:30 AM on August 18, 2010

Best answer: Having served on many governance committees, I have yet to see any meeting minutes (save one body's) conform to RRO's style for meeting minutes. I could, however, see you having automatic I, II, III sections, to make it more organized. You may not want to incur the wrath of overworked secretaries across the college by forcing them all to use the same strict outline-style.
Also, if these meeting minutes are meant to be public, outline-style sometimes does a poor job of communicating the depth of conversations, especially for historical continuity.

You could definitely have input boxes/dropdowns for committee name, person taking the notes, date, attendance, etc.

On a side note, any chance this application of yours is open source or otherwise adoptable by other institutions? If so, please MeMail me.
posted by ananda gale at 8:39 AM on August 18, 2010

Best answer: If you're creating a web app, I'd not only think about standard formats, but in how you will need to search the database in the future. Personally, I'd definitely include these fields to make it easier to search:
Minutes Taker / Submitter (you can probably think of a better word)
Attendees (could be relational or just a list)

Then, depending on your organization, I'd either simply include a "minutes" field, or I'd break it up like:
Action Items
posted by beyond_pink at 10:59 AM on August 18, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks! I think we're going to go for a more general approach with standard fields for date/time/location/organizer and such, with a pull from our LDAP server for attendance. Then, a simple "minutes" field, with rich editing. If someone clicks a button, they can have the app paste in a template, which might follow the RRO. This way, they'll have their options, and we'll have our nice, normalized data.
posted by fvox13 at 11:11 AM on August 18, 2010

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