n.a file of records considered more likely to be important because it is larger than usualHindus, Hammett, and Hobson 1980, 15Thus, in our case the systematic sample should be separate from the cases appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court and the “fat” files.Roberts 1987, 72–73The arguments favoring the fat file theory are not at all elusive, but neither is the fact that fat files are often fat with trivia.Bradsher 1988, 109Besides the review of case files identified by sampling, the task force also reviewed multi-sectioned case files to test the “fat file” hypothesis put forth in the Massachusetts Superior Court cases appraisal. This hypothesis suggested that the likelihood of case files having archival value increased with their size.Kenney 1990, 706The “fat file theory” was supported by their findings. Large files generally were considered more valuable than thin ones (61.8 percent of large files were found to have research value).Cook 1991b, 42–43NARA archivists compared fat files to thin files, and judged both against a random sample of the entire population. They assessed the contents of the fat, thin and sample groupings file by file in terms of high, medium, low and no archival value, as well as including factors concerning the variety of correspondence, level and significance of decision-making, gravity of case or offence and number of offices involved. The results are a conclusive demonstration of the value of the “fat file” approach in isolating the most important files, according to the above criteria.Bearman 1995, 399Another approach to the selection of records extends the concepts developed in the FBI appraisal project and the familiar “fat file” theory to the sampling of records series.Lyle 2004, 8An additional method of sampling is also available. This involves combining the various forms of sampling to provide for an amplified result. For example, knowing that exceptional sample provides a representative sample, an archivist might use a systematic skimming of “fat” files to also include records of particular high value.
The concept that “fat files” might be more important than smaller files, along with the term itself, probably began with the work Michael Stephen Hindus and his colleagues did appraising and sampling the files of the Massachusetts Superior Court in the 1970s. The idea behind this concept is that files become larger when they represent more contentious, more complicated, and, thus, more important and historical issues. However, some archivists question the validity of this concept. There is no set term for the concept of the importance of the fat file, so archivists use various terms, such as “fat file hypothesis,” “fat file method,” and “fat file theory.” Although this term was created with the concept of paper records in mind, it also works conceptually with digital records.