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Documentation (numeronym d11n) may refer to the process of providing evidence ("to document something") or to the communicable material used to provide such documentation (i.e. a document). Documentation may also (seldom) refer to tools aiming at identifying documents (see bibliography) or to the field of study devoted to the study of documents and bibliographies (see documentation (field)).

Subfields of documentation includes:

  • Scientific documentation
  • Technical documentation (e.g. software documentation, product specifications or a patent document)
  • Legal documentation (e.g. a travel document system)
  • Administrative documentation
  • Historical documentation

Documentation understood as document is any communicable material (such as text, video, audio, etc., or combinations thereof) used to explain some attributes of an object, system or procedure. It is often used to mean engineering documentation or software documentation, which is usually paper books or computer readable files (such as HTML pages) that describe the structure and components, or on the other hand, operation, of a system/product.

A professional whose field and work is documentation used to be termed a documentalist. Normally, documentalists are trained or have a background in both a specific subject and in the field of documentation (today information science). A person more or less exclusively to write technical documentation is called a technical writer. Technical writers are similarly trained or have a background in technical writing, along with some knowledge of the subject(s) they are documenting. Often, though, they collaborate with subject matter experts (SMEs), such as engineers.

Common types of computer hardware/software documentation include online help, FAQs, how-tos, and user guides. The term RTFM is often used colloqially in regard to such documentation, especially to computer hardware and software user guides.

A common type of software document frequently written by software engineers in the simulation industry is the SDF (software documentation folder). While developing the software for a simulator, which can range from embedded avionics devices to 3D terrain databases to full motion control systems, the engineer keeps a notebook detailing the development lifecycle of the project. The notebook can contain a requirements section, an interface section detailing the communication interface of the software, a notes section to detail the proof of concept attempts to track what worked or didn't work in solving certain problems, and a testing section to detail how the software will be tested to prove conformance to the requirements of the contract. The end result is a detailed description of how the software is designed, how to build and install the software on the target device, and any known weaknesses in the design of the software. This document will allow future developers and maintainers of the trainer to come up to speed on the software design in as short a time as possible and have a documented reference when modifying code or searching for bugs.


While associated ISO standards are not easily available publicly, a guide from other sources for this topic may service the purpose [1], [2], [3]. David Berger has provided several principals in document writings, regarding the terms using, procedure numbering and even lengths of sentences etc. [4].

The following is the list of guides dealing with each specific field and type

  • documentation in health care [5]
  • thesis writing [6], [7], [8]
  • papers for academic journal publishing (i.e. Journal of Food Science [9] and Analytical Chemistry [10])

Procedures and techniques

The procedures of documentation varies from one sector, or one type, to another. In general, these may involve document drafting, formating, submitting, reviewing, approving, distributing, repositing and tracking etc. and are convened by associated SOPs in a regulatory industry [11], [12], [13], [14].


  1. N/A (2003). "Guide to Documentation". Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  2. CGRP. "A Guide to Documentation Styles". Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  3. N/A. "A guide to MLA documentation". Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  4. Berger, David. "Porcedures and Documentation". Retrieved 15 June 2009. 
  5. Springhouse. "Complete Guide to Documentation".,M1. Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  6. Tampere Univresity of Technology. "Thesis Writing at the Tampere Univresity of Technology". Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  7. Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Prince Edward Island. "A Guide for the Writing of Gradualte Theses". Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  8. University of Waikato. "Writing and Submitting a Dissertation or Thesis at the University of Waikato". Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  9. Journal of Food Science. "Manuscript Submission". Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  10. Analytical Chemistry. "Information for Authors". Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  11. Cropper, Mark; Tony Dibbens (2002). "GAIA-RVS Documentation Procedures". Retrieved 15 June 2009. 
  12. N/A. "GLNPO's Quality System Documentation Review Procedures and Tracking". Retrieved 15 June 2009. 
  13. UK Data Archieve (2009). "Data Services Process Guides: Documentation Processing Procedures". Retrieved 15 June 2009. 
  14. UK Data Archieve (2007). "Data services Process Guides: Documentation Processing Techniques". Retrieved 15 June 2009. 

See also

External links