A living document or dynamic document is a document that is continually edited and updated. A simple example of a living document is an article in Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that permits anyone to freely edit its articles, in contrast to "dead" or "static" documents, such as an article in a single edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica.
A living document may or may not have a framework for updates, changes, or adjustments. This type of document without proper context can change away from its original purpose through multiple uncontrolled edits. This can encourage open collaboration within the network, but in some cases there can also be stagnation if no one takes on the initiative of updating the work. One reason why initiative is not taken to update the document could come from a sense of ambiguity.
However, a living document may evolve through successive updates, be expanded as needed, and serve a different purpose over time. Living documents are changed through revisions that may or may not reference previous iterative changes. The rate of document drift depends on the structure of the original document, or original intent of such document, or guidelines for modifying such document.
In United States constitutional law, the Living Constitution, also known as loose constructionism, permits the Constitution as a static document to have an interpretation that shifts over time as the cultural context changes. The opposing view, originalism, holds that the original intent or meaning of the writers of the Constitution should guide its interpretation.
In business a living document may fall under corporate change management or be shared among a team. It may start as a draft that at some time graduates into general acceptance, or may originate as part of a formal documentation process. Regardless of the degree of formality, a living document needs rules or guidelines for its modification. Such guidelines allow — and should ideally encourage — the document's evolution over time. It is in this sense of growth that the document can be thought of as "living."
In technology, living documents can be implemented using a wiki.
Living documentation is a key concept in Specification by example.
In pastoral theology
In pastoral theology the 'living document' refers to an individual person.
- Shanahan, Daniel R (11 April 2015). "A living document: reincarnating the research article". Trials 16 (1): 151. doi:10.1186/s13063-015-0666-5. PMID 4403711.