Specification (technical standard)

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A specification can be defined in different ways depending on its use: it may be formal, architectural, functional, program-specific, action-specific, or a mix of these and other aspects. Merriam-Webster defines specification as "the act or process of specifying,"[1] though it can also be a presentation, plan, proposal, statement, description, or some other document that states how something should be performed or initiated. A more thorough — and practical — definition of a specification comes from ASTM International:

specification, n — an explicit set of requirements to be satisfied by a material, product, system, or service.

DISCUSSION — Examples of specifications include, but are not limited to, requirements for; physical, mechanical, or chemical properties, and safety, quality, or performance criteria. A specification identifies the test methods for determining whether each of the requirements is satisfied.

—ASTM International, Form and Style for ASTM Standards[2]

For the purposes of this wiki, we generally use the word "specification" to refer to an individual requirement a software system must satisfy rather than a set of requirements. For example Specification 481918 Entry and accuracy represents one possible system requirement: the system allows test results entry with accuracy ensured. This specification may be one of more than a hundred requirements, each represented by a specification. For the purposes of this wiki, when numerous specifications are collected together to represent all potential requirements for a system, we use the word "datasheet."


  1. "specification". Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, Inc. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/specification. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  2. "Form and Style for ASTM Standards". ASTM International. January 2015. http://www.astm.org/COMMIT/Blue_Book.pdf. Retrieved 27 April 2015.