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Documentation is any communicable material that is used to describe, explain or instruct regarding some attributes of an object, system or procedure, such as its parts, assembly, installation, maintenance and use. [1] Documentation can be provided on paper, online, or on digital or analog media, such as audio tape or CDs. Examples are user guides, white papers, online help, and quick-reference guides. Paper or hard-copy documentation has become less common.[ citation needed ] Documentation is often distributed via websites, software products, and other online applications.


Documentation as a set of instructional materials shouldn't be confused with documentation science, the study of the recording and retrieval of information.

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. [2] , [3] , [4] David Berger has provided several principles of document writing, including terminology, procedure numbering, and sentence length. [5]

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, concise words should be used, and sentences should be limited to a maximum of 15 words. Documentation intended for a general audience should avoid gender-specific terms and cultural biases. In a series of procedures, steps should be clearly numbered. [6] , [7] , [8] , [9]

Producing documentation

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, managing content, and 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 documentation that meets the user's needs. Corporate communications includes other types of written documentation that is required for most companies.

Specialized fields of documentation

Documentation in computer science

The following are typical software documentation types:

The following are typical hardware and service documentation types:

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

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. Examples include XIA Configuration. [11]

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. [12]

Documentation in early childhood education

Documentation, as it pertains to the early childhood education field, is "when we notice and value children's ideas, thinking, questions, and theories about the world and then collect traces of their work (drawings, photographs of the children in action, and transcripts of their words) to share with a wider community" [13]

Thus, documentation is a process, used to link the educator's knowledge and learning of the child/children with the families, other collaborators, and even to the children themselves.

Documentation is an integral part of the cycle of inquiry - observing, reflecting, documenting, sharing and responding. [13]

Pedagogical documentation, in terms of the teacher documentation, is the "teacher's story of the movement in children's understanding". [13] According to Stephanie Cox Suarez in 'Documentation - Transforming our Perspectives', "teachers are considered researchers, and documentation is a research tool to support knowledge building among children and adults" [14]

Documentation can take many different styles in the classroom. The following exemplifies ways in which documentation can make the 'research', or learning, visible:

  1. Documentation Panels (bulletin-board-like presentation with multiple pictures and descriptions about the project or event).
  2. Daily Log (a log kept every day that records the play and learning in the classroom)
  3. Documentation developed by or with the children (when observing children during documentation, the child's lens of the observation is used in the actual documentation)
  4. Individual Portfolios (documentation used to track and highlight the development of each child)
  5. Electronic Documentation (using apps and devices to share documentation with families and collaborators)
  6. Transcripts or Recordings of Conversations (using recording in documentation can bring about deeper reflections for both the educator and the child)
  7. Learning Stories (a narrative used to "describe learning and help children see themselves as powerful learners" [13] )
  8. The Classroom as Documentation (reflections and documentation of the physical environment of a classroom). [13]

Documentation is certainly a process in and of itself, and it is also a process within the educator. The following is the development of documentation as it progresses for and in the educator themselves:

See also

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