Guide to the Data Entry Process

This guide is based on the Pringle Herbarium's data entry procedure, which was written by Melita Schmeckpeper and Brendan Lyons.  If you have any questions or suggestions, please comment or contact us!


Info about Data Entry

Tips and Additional Details: interpreting unclear labels, recording data from labels written in languages other than English, adding exsiccati titles, using OCR, and entering data rapidly.

Info about Processing Statuses:

The processing status of specimens is a useful tool for keeping track of what stages of the digitization process have been completed for each specimen.  This guide assumes that the processing statuses are applied as shown in the following flow chart. 

General Instructions

Navigating to Unprocessed Specimens

  • Open an web browser and log in to the appropriate site ( or
  • While you can use any browser you like, using Google Chrome or another browser that can remember form data can make some aspects of data entry faster and easier. (See the “Tips & Additional Details” section at the bottom of this post for more information on this matter.)
  • In the menu on the left of the screen, click on “Search Collections.” Scroll down to find your herbarium, and click “more info.”
  • Click the pencil icon located near the top right corner of the screen to display the Data Editor Control Panel.  Click “Edit Existing Occurrence Records.”

  • A search form will be displayed.  This can be used to locate specimens meeting specific criteria, but can also be used to access a collection as a whole.  (To do so, don’t enter anything into the search form before clicking “Display Table.”)
  • To access unprocessed specimens, either use the search form to select only unprocessed specimens, or pick a specimen whose processing status is “unprocessed” from the table displaying all the specimens in a collection. Click on a specimen's Symbiota ID number to open it.
  • When you are viewing an individual specimen’s form, the search form can also be accessed by clicking the magnifying class in the top right corner of the screen. 


Entering Data

  • Once you’ve opened a specimen record, click the “Images” tab and open a better copy of the image of the specimen label using the Large Image URL.

  • It’s easiest to record data from the image if it’s open in a window adjacent to the window in which your specimen data form is open, as shown below.  This can either be done manually (by right-clicking to open the Large Image URL in a new window and then manually resizing the new window so that it doesn’t cover your old window) or by using a browser extension to automatically open and resize the new window.  (For instructions on how to do this, see the “Tips & Additional Details” section of this post.) 

  • Use the photograph of the specimen label to fill out the form shown in the “Occurrence Data” tab. Most labels will not give enough information to fill all the fields on the form; just fill in as much as is possible.  Important fields are described below. If you are unable to read a label, type “[illegible]” into the fields for which you cannot read the information, and change the specimen’s processing status to “Expert Required.” For information about interpreting unclear labels, recording data from labels written in languages other than English, adding exsiccati titles, and entering data rapidly, see the “Additional Details” section of this document. 
  • Collector: Enter the collector’s name.  While the “Occurrence Data” form will allow you to enter names in whatever format you choose, picking a consistent format is helpful.
  • The format used at the Pringle Herbarium is as follows:  First initial. Middle Initial(s). Last name (e.g. C. G. Pringle) Be sure to leave a space between each initial. If the initials and last name were not recorded on the original label, just fill in as much information as you can.
    • If more than one collector is listed, record all names in the “Collector” field and separate the names using a semicolon.  (e.g. A. M. Smith; R. J. Smith)
    • Record titles (e.g. Mrs., Dr., etc) before the first initial. It is especially important to record titles such as Mrs. and Ms. since they are necessary to distinguish between a woman using her husband’s name/initials and her husband himself.
  • Number: List the collector’s collection number.  If no number is give, enter “s.n.” (an abbreviation for sine numero, meaning “no number”).
  • Date: Enter the collection date using the YYYY-MM-DD format (e.g. May 21, 2014 = 2014-05-21.)  When data is missing, enter zeroes. (e.g. May 2014 = 2014-05-00)
  • You may also fill in the “Verbatim Date” field below if necessary.  This field can be useful if the label is unclear (e.g. 5/6/1889 could mean either May 6th or June 5th) or vague (e.g. Spring 2014). 
  • For labels that list a range of dates (e.g. June 21-24, 1922), list the earlier date (e.g. 1922-06-21) in the date field, and list the range in the verbatim date field. 
  • Exsiccati Title: List this, if applicable.  As you start typing, a drop-down menu should appear showing exsiccati titles recognized by the system. 
  • If the title you are trying to enter is not recognized, the website won’t let you save it as part of the entry. If this happens, consult other sources to determine if what you are looking at is actually part of an exsiccati.
    • If it is, add the exsiccati name to the list of accepted exsiccati titles and then enter data normally. For instructions for adding new exsiccati names, see the bottom of this post. 
    • If you cannot tell whether or not the specimen actually belongs to an exsiccati, record the exsiccati title in notes field and mark the specimen’s processing status as “expert required”
  • Number: List the exsiccati number. 
  • Scientific Name, Author, and Family: This data should have already been entered. 
  • Identified by and Date Identified: If it’s given, enter this data using the same format used for Collector and Date.
  • Country, State/Province, County, Municipality, and Locality: Fill in as much of this data as is available. 
  • It’s not necessary to look up county names for specimens that only have state and municipality listed.  It will be easier to fill in these blanks for multiple specimens at once later in the data entry process
  • Enter the full state/province name, not an abbreviation. 
  • Latitude, Longitude, Elevation, etc.: Fill in this data if it’s given. Remember to include appropriate units where necessary. 
  • Habitat, Substrate, Associated Taxa, and Description: Fill in this data if it’s given. 
  • After you’ve entered as much data as is available, change “Processing Status” to “Stage 1” (or, if necessary, “Expert Required”).  Click the “Save Edits” button at the bottom of the form, close the image of the label, and use the arrows at the very top of the screen to move on to the next specimen. 
  • Alternatively, if you will be entering many specimens in a row that should have the same processing status, you can use the “Status Auto-set” tool, which is located below the “Save Edits” button. Use the drop down menu to select the processing status you want the specimens’ status to be changed to.  Once you’ve done this, hitting the enter key will save your work if you’ve entered new data.  (Note that hitting enter will not work if you cursor in the “Associated Taxa” field.) If this tool is active, it will override any manual changes you make to the specimen’s processing status, so make sure to turn if off when you are working on a specimen that should have a different processing status than the ones you have been working on previously. 


Tips & Additional Details

Interpreting Unclear Labels

Frequently, handwritten labels may be difficult to read.  However, in some cases, there are duplicates of the specimen whose labels have already been transcribed, and looking at these duplicates can make it easier to interpret the label of your specimen.

  • You must enter the collector name, number, date, or exsiccati into a specimen’s Occurrence Data form before you can search for duplicates. 
  • Once this data is entered, click the “Dupes?” button in the top right corner of the screen.  If available, a list of possible Exsiccati Duplicates will pop up in a new window. 
  • If a possible duplicate appears to be a close match with you specimen, you can click “Transfer All Fields” or “Transfer to Empty Fields Only” to transfer some of the data to your specimen’s form.  The data can then be modified as necessary. 

Specimen data recorded in languages other than English

Translate as much of the label as possible, and copy the translated information into the appropriate fields in the form.  Also, paste the information in its original language into the “notes” field of the form. 

Google Chrome Shortcuts

Entering Common Data Rapidly

If you’ve already typed in a piece of information (such as a collector or municipality name) for a previous specimen, Chrome should start showing it as an option in a drop-down menu when you begin to type that piece of information again. Selecting common information from the menu is usually much faster than retyping the information each time. 

Split-Screen / Resizing Tabs

Entering data is easiest if the form and the image of the label are displayed in adjacent windows. 

If you don’t want to set up your windows manually each time you open a specimen, you can use a browser extension to move and resize the windows for you.  The instructions that follow are for the Tab Resize extension, but others can also be used.  (For chrome, all extensions can be found and set up by going to, searching “tab resize” or “split screen,” and selecting an extension.) 

Using Tab Resize

  • From the Large Image URL found on the “Image” tab of a specimen record, open the image in a new tab. 
  • Click on the blue Tab Resize icon in the upper right corner of the browser to split the tabs into two windows.

Adding New Exsiccati Titles

Note: To add exsiccati titles, you must be using an administrator account. 

  • In the menu on the home page, click “Exsiccati.”
  • Click the green X to open a form for adding the new exsiccati title and data.



    On the right side of the form, there should be a small image of the label, with a button labeled “OCR Image” below it. (If this is not visible, click “>>” on the upper right corner of the form.) This tool can be used to automatically identify the words on the label so that you don’t have to type them out yourself.  The detected words appear in the box below the “OCR Image” button, and can be pasted into the form.  However, this tool rarely works on handwritten labels, and even typed letters are frequently detected incorrectly (e.g. Musei instead of Musci), so carefully proofread anything that you copy from this toolThe tool also frequently doesn't translate scientific names or Latin correctly. 

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation grant ADBC#1115116. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or
recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.