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This article includes a list of references, but its

sources remain unclear because it has Learn

A document is a written, drawn, presented,

or memorialized representation of
thought. a document is a form, or written
piece that trains a line of thought or as in
history, a significant event. The word
originates from the Latin documentum,
which denotes a "teaching" or "lesson": the
verb doceō denotes "to teach". In the past,
the word was usually used to denote a
written proof useful as evidence of a truth
or fact. In the computer age, "document"
usually denotes a primarily textual
computer file, including its structure and
format, e.g. fonts, colors, and images.
Contemporarily, "document" is not defined
by its transmission medium, e.g., paper,
given the existence of electronic
documents. "Documentation" is distinct
because it has more denotations than
"document". Documents are also
distinguished from "realia", which are
three-dimensional objects that would
otherwise satisfy the definition of
"document" because they memorialize or
represent thought; documents are
considered more as 2 dimensional
representations. While documents are able
to have large varieties of customization, all
documents are able to be shared freely,
and have the right to do so, creativity can
be represented by documents, also.
History, events, examples, opinion, etc. all
can be expressed in documents.

Several common types of documents: a birth

certificate, a legal document (a restraining order),
and a bank statement

Abstract definitions
The concept of "document" has been
defined by Suzanne Briet as "any concrete
or symbolic indication, preserved or
recorded, for reconstructing or for proving
a phenomenon, whether physical or

An often cited article concludes that "the

evolving notion of document" among
Jonathan Priest, Otlet, Briet, Schürmeyer,
and the other documentalists increasingly
emphasized whatever functioned as a
document rather than traditional physical
forms of documents. The shift to digital
technology would seem to make this
distinction even more important. Levy's
thoughtful analyses have shown that an
emphasis on the technology of digital
documents has impeded our
understanding of digital documents as
documents (e.g., Levy, 1994[2]). A
conventional document, such as a mail
message or a technical report, exists
physically in digital technology as a string
of bits, as does everything else in a digital
environment. As an object of study, it has
been made into a document. It has
become physical evidence by those who
study it.

"Document" is defined in library and

information science and documentation
science as a fundamental, abstract idea:
the word denotes everything that may be
represented or memorialized in order to
serve as evidence. The classic example
provided by Suzanne Briet is an antelope:
"An antelope running wild on the plains of
Africa should not be considered a
document[;] she rules. But if it were to be
captured, taken to a zoo and made an
object of study, it has been made into a
document. It has become physical
evidence being used by those who study it.
Indeed, scholarly articles written about the
antelope are secondary documents, since
the antelope itself is the primary
document."[3] This opinion has been
interpreted as an early expression of
actor–network theory.

Documents are sometimes classified as
secret, private, or public. They may also be
described as drafts or proofs. When a
document is copied, the source is
denominated the "original".

Standards are accepted for specific

applications in various fields, e.g.:

Academia: manuscript, thesis, paper,

and journal
Business: invoice, quote, RFP, proposal,
contract, packing slip, manifest, report
(detailed and summary), spread sheet,
MSDS, waybill, bill of lading (BOL),
financial statement, nondisclosure
agreement (NDA), mutual nondisclosure
agreement (MNDA), and user guide
Government, law, and politics:
application, brief, certificate,
commission, constitutional document,
form, gazette, identity document,
license, summons, and white paper
Media: mock-up and script

Such standard documents can be drafted

based on a template.
The page layout of a document is the
manner in which information is graphically
arranged in the space of the document,
e.g., on a page. If the appearance of the
document is of concern, page layout is
generally the responsibility of a graphic
designer. Typography concerns the design
of letter and symbol forms and their
physical arrangement in the document
(see typesetting). Information design
concerns the effective communication of
information, especially in industrial
documents and public signs. Simple
textual documents may not require visual
design and may be drafted only by an
author, clerk, or transcriber. Forms may
require a visual design for their initial
fields, but not to complete the forms.


A birth certificate from 1859

Traditionally, the medium of a document
was paper and the information was
applied to it in ink, either by hand writing
(to make a manuscript) or by mechanical
process (e.g., a printing press or laser
printer). Today, some short documents
also may consist of sheets of paper
stapled together.

Historically, documents were inscribed

with ink on papyrus (starting in ancient
Egypt) or parchment; scratched as runes
or carved on stone using a sharp tool, e.g.,
the Tablets of Stone described in the Bible;
stamped or incised in clay and then baked
to make clay tablets, e.g., in the Sumerian
and other Mesopotamian civilizations. The
papyrus or parchment was often rolled
into a scroll or cut into sheets and bound
into a codex (book).

Contemporary electronic means of

memorializing and displaying documents

Monitor of a desktop computer, laptop,

tablet PC, et cetera; optionally with a
printer to produce a hard copy;
Personal digital assistant (PDA);
Dedicated e-book device;
Electronic paper, typically, using the
Portable Document Format (PDF);
Information appliance;
Digital audio player; and
Radio and television service provider.

Digital documents usually require a

specific file format in order to be
presentable in a specific medium.

In law
Documents in all forms frequently serve as
material evidence in criminal and civil
proceedings. The forensic analysis of such
a document is within the scope of
questioned document examination. For
the purpose of cataloging and managing
the large number of documents that may
be produced during litigation, Bates
numbering is often applied to all
documents in the lawsuit so that each
document has a unique, arbitrary,
identification number.

See also
History of the book
Identity document
Realia (library science)
Travel document

1. Briet. 1951. 7. Quoted in Buckland,
2. Levy, D. M. "Fixed or Fluid? Document
Stability and New Media." 1994. In
European Conference on Hypertext
Technology 1994 Proceedings, pp.
24–31. New York: Association for
Computing Machinery. Retrieved 18
October 2011 from
=pdf Archived 2013-06-06 at the
Wayback Machine
3. Buckland, M. "What Is a Digital
Document?" 1998. In Document
Numérique Paris. 2(2). [1] Archived
2011-10-02 at the Wayback Machine.

Further reading

Wikimedia Commons has media

related to Documents.

Briet, S. (1951). Qu'est-ce que la

documentation? Paris: Documentaires
Industrielles et Techniques.
Buckland, M. (1991). Information and
information systems. New York: Greenwood
Frohmann, Bernd (2009). Revisiting "what is
a document?", Journal of Documentation,
65(2), 291-303.
Hjerppe, R. (1994). A framework for the
description of generalized documents.
Advances in Knowledge Organization, 4, 173-
Houser, L. (1986). Documents: The domain
of library and information science. Library
and Information Science Research, 8, 163-
Larsen, P.S. (1999). Books and bytes:
Preserving documents for posterity. Journal
of the American Society for Information
Science, 50(11), 1020-1027.
Lund, N. W. (2008). Document theory. Annual
Review of Information Science and
Technology, 43, 399-432.
Riles, A. (Ed.) (2006). Documents: Artifacts
of Modern Knowledge. University of
Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, MI.
Schamber, L. (1996). What is a document?
Rethinking the concept in uneasy times.
Journal of the American Society for
Information Science, 47, 669-671.
Signer, Beat: What is Wrong with Digital
Documents? A Conceptual Model for
Structural Cross-Media Content Composition
and Reuse , In Proceedings of the 29th
International Conference on Conceptual
Modeling (ER 2010), Vancouver, Canada,
November 2010.
Smith, Barry. “How to Do Things with
Documents ”, Rivista di Estetica, 50 (2012),
Smith, Barry. “Document Acts ”,in Anita
Konzelmann-Ziv, Hans Bernhard Schmid
(eds.), 2013. Institutions, Emotions, and
Group Agents.Contributions to Social
Ontology (Philosophical Studies Series),
Dordrecht: Springer
Ørom, A. (2007). The concept of information
versus the concept of document. I:
Document (re)turn. Contributions from a
research field in transition. Ed. By Roswitha
Skare, Niels Windfeld Lund & Andreas
Vårheim. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.
(pp. 53–72).
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