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September/October 2009

Test Method, Practice or Something Else?

Knowing the Types of Standards

Understanding the Regulations Governing ASTM Technical Committees (once known as “the Green Book”) and Form and Style for ASTM Standards (formerly known as “the Blue Book”) is necessary for anyone developing ASTM International standards. Rules&Regs explains some of the key points of these documents.

When an ASTM International committee, subcommittee or task group is contemplating the development of a new standard, it must answer the most basic of questions before proceeding: what type of standard best addresses our needs? Recognizing the importance of understanding the various types of standards, Form and Style for ASTM Standards quickly defines them, on page vii.

Let’s start with the definition of standard: “as used in ASTM International, a document that has been developed and established within the consensus principles of the Society and that meets the approval requirements of ASTM procedures and regulations.”

A test method is defined as “a definitive procedure that produces a test result.” Examples listed of test methods include identification, measurement and evaluation of one or more qualities, characteristics or properties. It is also noted that a precision and bias statement shall be reported at the end of test method.

The definition of a practice clearly shows the difference between this type of standard and a test method: “a definitive set of instructions for performing one or more specific operations that does not produce a test result.” Examples include application, assessment, cleaning, collection, decontamination, inspection, installation, preparation, sampling, screening and training.

A specification is defined as “an explicit set of requirements to be satisfied by a material, product, system or service.” A specification identifies the test methods for determining whether each of the requirements is satisfied. These requirements can include physical, mechanical or chemical properties and safety, quality or performance criteria.

A classification is “a systematic arrangement or division of materials, products, systems or services into groups based on similar characteristics such as origin, composition, properties or use.”

A guide is “a compendium of information or series of options that does not recommend a specific course of action.” Form and Style notes that a guide increases the awareness of information and approaches in a given subject area.

A terminology standard is what can be expected: “a document comprising definitions of terms; explanations of symbols, abbreviations or acronyms.”

Once it has been determined what type of standard is being developed, ASTM members can turn to Part A of Form and Style for detailed information on the form of test methods; Part B for specifications and Part C for the other types of standards.

ASTM members can also take advantage of ASTM’s draft standard templates, one for each of the six types, to further assist with writing a standard in accordance with Form and Style. All mandatory sections for each type of standard, as well as suggested sections, are provided. Plus, built-in macros automatically number the sections and subsections. The templates can be downloaded by clicking here.

A pdf of Form and Style for ASTM Standards can be found by clicking here.