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paper trail (plural paper trails)

  1. (idiomatic) A written record, history, or collection of evidence.
    Keep a good paper trail in case anyone asks you why you arrived at that conclusion.
  2. (idiomatic) the records left by a person or organization in the course of activities.

Usage notesEdit

The term paper trail is used most often by lawyers and investigative journalists, but it is familiar in general vocabulary. Although it originated in the predigital era, when adherence to its literal sense (involving paper records) was invariable, it is now often used figuratively to refer to any data trail (on paper, electronic, or any mixture of those). The term data trail allows for the general case (independent of medium), and has existed for decades, but is not yet as widely used as paper trail (as of 2017).

Related termsEdit