You Don't Need to Do This

Richard Wilhelm

A Look at Non-Mandatory Sections in ASTM Test Methods

The Rules&Regs column in the March/April issue of SN was titled "You Must Do This!" and we meant it. The column was a discussion of sections that must be included in every ASTM test method.

While mandatory sections often make up the spine of a test method, a variety of other non-mandatory sections can, and more often than not, should be used to make an ASTM test method as complete, relevant and useful as possible.

With this in mind, let's take a look at some possible section subject headings listed in Form and Style for ASTM Standards.

A4. Introduction. Introductions that cover general informational material regarding a test method are rarely used. However, there may be cases in which a test method is, according to Form and Style, "of such a nature that it requires an explanatory statement for proper understanding by the user." In such cases, an introduction should be placed immediately after the title but without a section number.

A6. Referenced Documents. While a Referenced Documents section is not listed as mandatory, nearly every test method will probably feature such a section. The designation and complete title of any of the following documents referenced in the standard is listed in this section:

  • ASTM standards and adjuncts;
  • Standards and codes from all other organizations.

All listed documents should have footnotes that indicate sources. When referenced later in the test method, documents should simply be referred to by the type of standard and designation number with no title needed.

A7. Terminology. While not listed as mandatory, Form and Style strongly suggests that "every standard include a section on terminology." A7 presents detailed guidelines for what terms should be defined in the test method, notes on definitions and discussions and other information on developing a terminology section. (For more information on terminology in standards, see the two-part "What Are Words For" Rules&Regs columns in the November/December 2010 and January/February 2011 issues of SN).

A11. Apparatus. A brief description of the essential features of equipment required for the test, along with schematic drawings and photos, when needed to clarify the text, can be placed in an Apparatus section. Important features and requirements for the apparatus should be covered in separate text segments of the section.

It is not necessary to list common laboratory apparatus, such as flasks and beakers, though specially modified forms or unusual sizes of such objects should be mentioned.

Information on the use of trademarks, as well as guidelines on when to put apparatus information in an annex to the standard are also included in A11.

A12. Reagents and Materials. A12.2 provides the text for statements on purity of reagents and purity of water, when it is applicable to include such information in a test method. Other guidelines for describing the use of grades of water and examples of reagent descriptions are included.

A13. Hazards. While safety and fire hazard caveats required by ASTM policy must be included in the scope section of a standard, other hazards statements can be included in a separate section.

A list of suggested subject headings can be found in A1.1 of Form and Style, with information on those not covered here found through Part A, Form of Test Methods.

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