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Standards and Codes

What is a Standard?

A standard is a "document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose." (ISO, 2013) Standards that are incorporated into law or government regulations are often referred to as codes.

Organizations that develop standards are called standards developing organizations (SDOs) or standards setting organizations (SSOs). This includes organizations, committees, companies, governmental agencies and other groups. There are hundreds of thousands of standards and codes in force worldwide.

Standards apply to everything from Christmas trees to nuclear power stations and children's toys to medical scanners. Standards are why a smartphone made in South Korea will work on a North American cell phone network.

Citing Standards

Standard Numbers

Standards are often identified and cited by their number, which is typically composed of three elements:

  1. An abberviation of the organization that developed the standard
  2. An identification number
  3. The year the standard was issued or approved

For example, in "ABC 123.45 2010",

  • ABC is the abberviation of the standards developing organization
  • 123.45 is the identification number of the standard
  • 2010 is the year the standard was approved

Some SDOs also include a number or letter indicating the subject area of the standard.

For example, in "XYZ D123-2008", 

  • XYZ is the abberviation of the standards developing organization
  • D is the subject area
  • 123 is the identification number of the standard
  • 2008 is the year the standard was approved

Citing Standards

The format for citing a standard will vary depending on the style guide or journal guidelines. Below are a few examples.

APA Style

Canadian Standards Association. (2015). Oil and gas pipeline systems. CAN/CSA-Z662-15 (Revised 2016). Toronto, ON: CSA Group. Retrieved from CSA Online Subscription Service.

IEEE Style

Oil and gas pipeline systems, CAN/CSA-Z662-15 (Revised 2016). 2015. Retrieved from CSA Online Subscription Service.