Purpose of Reference Section in SOPs

#1
I've been asked: Why do we need the "References (internal/external)" section? We do mention some in the body of the document, so isn't it redundant to mention in 2 places?

The background is that the masses think that the SOP format is not user friendly, with all the sections and how deep the actual procedure is buried.

For example:
ASTM E620, Standard Practice for Reporting Opinions of Scientific or Technical Experts, applies to our reports. The document states, “The report shall contain all facts that are pertinent to the opinion rendered.” Therefore, you must include research data if it is used to reach your conclusion, regardless of the report type.

Anyway, I thought the reason to have this section was that if the reference is revised (like from year 2014 to 2018), it would be easier for the document owner to update the document/SOP. And I feel like we should follow what I understand to be the "standard" outline:
1. Table of Contents (optional)
2. Version History
3. Purpose
4. Scope
5. Introduction
6. Abbreviations (we use a lot, so I think it should remain)
7. Responsibilities
8. Procedure
9. Supporting Documents
a. Forms
b. References

FYI we are not bound to any standard, but we "try and follow" ISO 9001 guidelines.
 
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#2
Welcome!
Over the years, I've come to realize that this type of format will kill the user experience quicker than the quickest quick thing you can think of. If creating documents for the widest possible group of users you can imagine - such as standards users, I could see a case for such headings. For internal documents? Total overkill, IMHO.
 

Sidney Vianna

Post Responsibly
Staff member
Admin
#3
I've been asked: Why do we need the "References (internal/external)" section? We do mention some in the body of the document, so isn't it redundant to mention in 2 places?
Firstly, if you are "trying to follow" ISO 9001, you should be aware of a few things:

1. The latest revision of 9001 does not prescribe any minimum documents as part of the quality system. So, each organization must determine the need for and adequacy of any command media as a component of process definition. It is totally up to your organization to determine the need for, format, level of detail and structures of SOP's (Standard Operating Procedures).

2. ISO 9001 has requirements for management of knowledge. Many times, users of documents have no idea of why we need a "Reference Section". But, very likely, the person who originated that procedure (possibly decades ago) thought it would be important to capture relevant information such as documents of external origin (references), so, as you described, should those external references get revised, one should trigger the updating of the SOP.

Only your organization can determine the need for and usefulness of a "reference section" in the SOP's, based on your organizational context, but, at all times, if you consider leaning your documentation, make sure you are not losing relevant organizational knowledge.

Good luck.
 
#4
Welcome!
Over the years, I've come to realize that this type of format will kill the user experience quicker than the quickest quick thing you can think of. If creating documents for the widest possible group of users you can imagine - such as standards users, I could see a case for such headings. For internal documents? Total overkill, IMHO.
Rabbit hole alert!

Can anyone suggest a format that anyone has found to be the most painless to read, comprehend and follow?

Should I just combine Policy/process/procedure and Work Instruction into one doc?
 
#5
Rabbit hole alert!

Can anyone suggest a format that anyone has found to be the most painless to read, comprehend and follow?

Should I just combine Policy/process/procedure and Work Instruction into one doc?
I have one - message me your contact email. Do NOT merge these three types of document! They have totally different purposes.
 

BradM

Staff member
Admin
#7
Re: Purpose of Reference Section in SOPs?

I've been asked: Why do we need the "References (internal/external)" section? We do mention some in the body of the document, so isn't it redundant to mention in 2 places?

The background is that the masses think that the SOP format is not user friendly, with all the sections and how deep the actual procedure is buried.

For example:
ASTM E620, Standard Practice for Reporting Opinions of Scientific or Technical Experts, applies to our reports. The document states, “The report shall contain all facts that are pertinent to the opinion rendered.” Therefore, you must include research data if it is used to reach your conclusion, regardless of the report type.

Anyway, I thought the reason to have this section was that if the reference is revised (like from year 2014 to 2018), it would be easier for the document owner to update the document/SOP. And I feel like we should follow what I understand to be the "standard" outline:
1. Table of Contents (optional)
2. Version History
3. Purpose
4. Scope
5. Introduction
6. Abbreviations (we use a lot, so I think it should remain)
7. Responsibilities
8. Procedure
9. Supporting Documents
a. Forms
b. References

FYI we are not bound to any standard, but we "try and follow" ISO 9001 guidelines.
I like that you're asking questions. :agree1: The only thing I can see a reference section for is it can provide the exact reference you can go find; if that information is not found in the body. Say I'm following your procedure and you have. In references, I might want to list the procedure, its title, and maybe the document location/database if someone went to look for it. I have found this especially helpful more with external documents (ANSI/ NIST/ ISO documents) that require more information to find them, than an internal procedure reference that is much easier to identify and find.
 
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