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Under documentation refers to the utilization of information for further use. The aim of the documentation is to make it possible to find information (documents) that is permanently recorded in writing or in some other way. Documents in this sense can be specialist books , magazine articles or other printed matter , but also archive materials, images, films, sound recordings and the like. Scientifically collected data can also be treated as documentation.

The information about an object determined by documentation is called metadata .

At the beginning of the 20th century, Paul Otlet coined the term documentation as the collection, organization and utilization of documents of all kinds.

Some quality features of documentation are: completeness, clarity, comprehensibility, structuredness, correctness, editability, traceability, integrity / authenticity (e.g. change history), objectivity

Cataloging in libraries

The indexing of information is one of the essential tasks of libraries and other documentation institutions . In libraries, newly acquired publications are cataloged , ie the publications are entered in the library catalog . This is usually done taking into account regulations (e.g. RAK or AACR ) and with the help of documentation languages and other controlled vocabularies . In addition, automatic information retrieval methods are increasingly being used.

In the library system , a distinction is made between formal and subject indexing . While the formal indexing is limited to the (objective) formal criteria of an object, the subject indexing deals with its content.

Project management and software development

In the areas of project management and software development, documentation means describing all decisions, steps and measures that were taken during the project or development period. The aim of this form of documentation is a traceability of decisions and thus a uniform understanding of the actual and target state, the object of documentation.

In addition to the actual content, documentation can contain the following information:

  • clear assignment to a process
  • responsible process owner
  • Date and signature of the change
  • Acceptance note from the process owner with date and signature
  • official current status of the document: date and link
  • List of attachments with links

Other forms of documentation

Documentation as a form of publication describes journalistically prepared reports which, with the help of sources and testimonials, lay claim to non-fictionality, with reference to the real world.

In print media, one speaks of documentation when an original document is reproduced in whole or in part. The embedding of short excerpts from original documents in a journalistic text, on the other hand, is called a quotation .

See also


  • Wilhelm Gaus: Documentation and order theory. Information retrieval theory and practice . Springer, Berlin Heidelberg 2003, ISBN 3-540-43505-0 .
  • Ferdinand Müller: Documentation Problems. I. History and development of the documentation. In: Chemiker Zeitung - Chemical Apparatus. 84 (9), (1960), p. 287 ff.
  • Ferdinand Müller: Documentation Problems. II. The documentation, its classification systems and mechanical aids. In: Chemiker Zeitung - Chemical Apparatus. 84 (23), (1960), pp. 768-771 and pp. 801-804.
  • Klaus Haller : Catalog customer . Saur, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-598-11364-1 .
  • Johannes Rogalla von Bieberstein : Archive, library and museum as documentation areas. Documentation, Pullach 1975, ISBN 3-7940-4116-X .
  • Elaine Svenonius: The Intellectual Foundation of Information Organization . Cambridge (Mass.) 2000, ISBN 0-262-19433-3 .
  • Hansjoachim Samulowitz, Marlies Ockenfeld: Library and documentation - a never-ending story. In: Information - Science & Practice. No. 54, 2003, pp. 453–462 (online)
  • Jutta Bertram: Introduction to content development, basics - methods - instruments. In: Content and Communication. Terminology, Language Resources and Semantic Interoperability. Volume 2, Ergon-Verlag, Würzburg 2005, ISBN 3-89913-442-7 .
  • Paul H. Otlet : The Documentation. In: Peter R. Frank (Ed.): From the systematic bibliography to documentation . Scientific Buchges., Darmstadt 1978 (from: L'Organisation Systématique de la Documentation. Institut International de Bibliographie. No. 82. 1907).

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