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A checklist is a type of informational job aid used to reduce failure by compensating for potential limits of human memory and attention. It helps to ensure consistency and completeness in carrying out a task. A basic example is the "to do list." A more advanced checklist would be a schedule, which lays out tasks to be done according to time of day or other factors.


A pilot of a DC-10 consulting his checklist.
  • pre-flight checklists aid in aviation safety to ensure that critical items are not forgotten
  • use in medical practice to ensure that clinical practice guidelines are followed. An example is the Surgical Safety Checklist developed for the World Health Organization by Dr. Atul Gawande.[1] Evidence to support surgical checklists is tentative but limited.[2]
  • used in quality assurance of software engineering, to check process compliance, code standardization and error prevention, and others.
  • often used in industry in operations procedures.
  • used in civil litigation to deal with the complexity of discovery and motions practice. An example is the open-source litigation checklist.
  • used by some investors as a critical part of their investment process
  • can aid in mitigating claims of negligence in public liability claims by providing evidence of a risk management system being in place.
  • an ornithological checklist, a list of birds with standardized names that helps ornithologists communicate with the public without the use of scientific names in Latin.
  • a popular tool for tracking sports card collections. Randomly inserted in packs, checklist cards provide information on the contents of sports card set.


Example checklist

Checklists are often presented as lists with small checkboxes down the left hand side of the page. A small tick or checkmark is drawn in the box after the item has been completed.

Other formats are also sometimes used. Aviation checklists generally consist of a system and an action divided by a dashed line, and lack a checkbox as they are often read aloud and are usually intended to be reused.


Excessive dependence of checklists may hinder performance when dealing with a time-critical situation, for example a medical emergency or an in-flight emergency. Checklists should not be used as a replacement for common sense. Intensive training including rote-learning of checklists can help integrate use of checklists with more adaptive and flexible problem solving techniques.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Haynes A; Gawande A (January 2009). "A surgical safety checklist to reduce morbidity and mortality in a global population.". New England Journal of Medicine 360 (5): 491–499. doi:10.1056/NEJMsa0810119. PMID 19144931. 
  2. ^ Bergs, J; Hellings, J; Cleemput, I; Zurel, Ö; De Troyer, V; Van Hiel, M; Demeere, JL; Claeys, D; Vandijck, D (Feb 2014). "Systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of the World Health Organization surgical safety checklist on postoperative complications.". The British journal of surgery 101 (3): 150–8. doi:10.1002/bjs.9381. PMID 24469615. 

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