Documentation Types

Sections of this topic

    A Technical Writer creates and compiles a range of documents. This is especially true when the product involves multiple divisions, departments, or projects. By working across these multiple channels all knowledge gained will be incorporated within several documents. Product specifications, deployment manuals, instructional material, operational manuals, forms manuals, brochures, etc., may need to be written. Within each document, the Technical Writer will communicate what is relevant and be able to present it in a creative manner. Creativity is important when constructing tables, charts, graphics, or diagrams to simplify and enhance details of procedures, processes, business reports, etc. Besides relevancy and creativity, there are other core requirements for specific types of documents. Below are some standard forms of documentation frequently generated during a product’s life cycle. Under each type of document are some fundamental elements.

    Requirement Documents (created at the initiation of a project) contain:

    • Date and authorization,
    • Project scope/overview,
    • Task proposal,
    • Proposal validation,
    • Business goals,
    • Specifications,
    • Time and expenses,
    • Resources and support.

    Software and Functional Specification Documents (created for Developers and Analysts) contain:

    • Technical details of the product,
    • Detailed tasks,
    • Database design and schema location,
    • Client needs,
    • Program functionality,
    • System platforms ,
    • User Interface,
    • Security,
    • Error messages.

    User /Operations /Training Documents (created for guidance and instruction) contain:

    • Guide description,
    • Product description,
    • Installation and/or log-on procedures,
    • Program functionality,
    • Required information,
    • Prompts and error messages,
    • Trouble-shooting section,
    • Glossary,
    • Reference sheet.

    Reference/Cheat Sheets (created as a quick look-up) contain:

    • Brief program overview,
    • Brief explanation of each functionality,
    • Quick ways to accomplish a task,
    • Brief trouble-shooting section,
    • Index and cross reference sheets.

    Quality Assurance/ Test Plan Documents (created for testing) contain:

    • Program description and client needs,
    • System requirements,
    • Program accessibility,
    • Functionality,
    • Tasks and scenarios,
    • Expectations,
    • Regression testing,
    • Problems and resolution.

    SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) Documents (created for routine tasks) contain:

    • Purpose,
    • People involved/affected,
    • Guidelines,
    • Revision instructions.
    • Procedures,
    • Appendix,
    • Glossary.

    Each of the above documents will be elaborated on in future posts. There are many other types of documents that a Technical Writer produces. The above were selected because they are generally the most common. If there are others that you wish more information on, please leave a comment.