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Documentation is a set of documents provided on paper, or online, or on digital or analog media, such as audio tape or CDs. Examples are user guides, white papers, on-line help, quick-reference guides. It is becoming less common to see paper (hard-copy) documentation. Documentation is distributed via websites, software products, and other on-line applications.
Professionals educated in this field are termed documentalists. This field changed its name to information science in 1968, but some uses of the term documentation still exists and there have been efforts to reintroduce the term documentation as a field of study.
Principles for producing documentation
While associated ISO standards are not easily available publicly, a guide from other sources for this topic may serve the purpose., ,. David Berger has provided several principles of document writing, regarding the terms used, procedure numbering and even lengths of sentences, etc.
The following is a list of guides dealing with each specific field and type:
- documentation in health care
- thesis writing
Further information: Dissertation
- papers for academic journal publishing (i.e., Journal of Food Science and Analytical Chemistry)
Procedures and techniques
The procedures of documentation vary from one sector, or one type, to another. In general, these may involve document drafting, formatting, submitting, reviewing, approving, distributing, reposting and tracking, etc., and are convened by associated SOPs in a regulatory industry. It could also involve creating content from scratch. Documentation should be easy to read and understand. If it's too long and too wordy, it may be misunderstood or ignored. Clear, Short, Familiar words should be used to a maximum of 15 words to a sentence. Only gender hyper neutral word should be used and cultural biases should be avoided. Procedures should be numbered when they are to be performed., , ,.
Technical writers and corporate communicators are professionals whose field and work is documentation. Ideally, technical writers have a background in both the subject matter and also in writing and managing content (information architecture). Technical writers more commonly collaborate with subject matter experts (SMEs), such as engineers, technical experts, medical professionals, or other types of clients to define and then create content (documentation) that meets the user's needs. Corporate communications includes other types of written documentation that is required for most companies.
- Marketing Communications (MarCom): MarCom writers endeavor to convey the company's value proposition through a variety of print, electronic, and social media. This area of corporate writing is often engaged in responding to proposals.
- Technical Communication (TechCom): Technical writers document a company's product or service. Technical publication include user guides, installation an configuration manuals, and troubleshooting/repair/replace procedures.
- Legal Writing: This type of documentation is often prepared by attorneys or paralegals who could be in private practice or retained as corporate council.
- Compliance documentation: This type of documentation codifies Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), for any regulatory compliance needs, as for safety approval, taxation, financing, technical approval, etc.
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Documentation in computer science
The following are typical software documentation types
- Request for Proposal (RFP)
- Requirements/ Statement of work/ Scope of Work (SOW)
- Software Design and Functional Specification
- System Design and Functional Specifications
- Change Management, Error and Enhancement Tracking
- User Acceptance Testing
The following are typical hardware and service documentation types
- network diagrams
- network maps
- datasheet for IT systems (Server, Switch, e.g.)
- Service Catalog and Service Portfolio (ITIL)
Documentation include such as feasibility report, technical documentation, operational documentation, log book, etc.
Tools for documenting software
There are many types of software and applications used to create documentation.
SOFTWARE DOCUMENTATION FOLDER (SDF)
A common type of software document written by software engineers in the simulation industry is the SDF. When developing software for a simulator, which can range from embedded avionics devices to 3D terrain databases by way of full motion control systems, the engineer keeps a notebook detailing the development "the build" of the project or module. The document can be a wiki page, MS word document or other environment. They should contain a requirements section, an interface section to detail the communication interface of the software. Often a notes section is used to detail the proof of concept, and then track errors and enhancements. Finally, a testing section to document how the software was tested. This documents conformance to the client's requirements. The 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 defects and work-arounds. This build document enables future developers and maintainers to come up to speed on the software in a timely manner, and also provides a roadmap to modifying code or searching for bugs.
SOFTWARE FOR NETWORK INVENTORY AND CONFIGURATION (CMDB)
These software tools can automatically collect data of your network equipment. The data could be for inventory and for configuration information. The ITIL Library requests to create such a database as a basis for all information for the IT responsible. It's also the basis for IT documentation.
Documentation in criminal justice
"Documentation" is the preferred term for the process of populating criminal databases. Examples include the National Counter-terrorism Center's Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment ("TIDE"), sex offender registries, and gang databases.
- N/A (2003). "Guide to Documentation" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 July 2007.
- CGRP. "A Guide to Documentation Styles" (PDF). Retrieved 12 June 2009.
- N/A. "A guide to MLA documentation" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 September 2006. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
- Berger, David. "Procedures and Documentation" (PDF). Retrieved 15 June 2009.
- Springhouse. Complete Guide to Documentation. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
- Tampere University of Technology. "Thesis Writing at the Tampere University of Technology" (PDF). Retrieved 12 June 2009.
- Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Prince Edward Island. "A Guide for the Writing of Graduate Theses" (PDF). Retrieved 12 June 2009.
- University of Waikato. "Writing and Submitting a Dissertation or Thesis at the University of Waikato" (PDF). Retrieved 12 June 2009.
- Journal of Food Science. "Manuscript Submission". Retrieved 12 June 2009.
- Analytical Chemistry. "Information for Authors". Retrieved 12 June 2009.
- Cropper, Mark; Tony Dibbens (2002). "GAIA-RVS Documentation Procedures" (PDF). Retrieved 15 June 2009.
- N/A. "GLNPO's Quality System Documentation Review Procedures and Tracking" (PDF). Retrieved 15 June 2009.[dead link]
- UK Data Archive (2009). "Data Services Process Guides: Documentation Processing Procedures" (PDF). Retrieved 15 June 2009.
- UK Data Archive. "Data Services Process Guides: Documentation Processing Techniques" (PDF). Retrieved 15 June 2009.[dead link]
- Rader Brown, Rebecca (2009). "The Gang's All Here: Evaluating the Need for a National Gang Database". Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems. 42: 293–333.
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