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EE 333T - Engineering Communication - Wuster

Engineering Standards

Standards, Codes, & Specifications

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 (International Organization for Standardization)


  • IEEE 802.11 (WiFi) - 425 pages
  • IEEE 11073-10419 (Insulin Pump) 138 pagess

Who creates standards?

Standards are created by a variety of organizations including:

  • Professional societies e.g. IEEE, ASME
  • Assocations e.g. American Wire Rope Manufacturers
  • Government agencies e.g. NASA
  • International bodies e.g. ISO, IEC

How to find standards in the library?

While some standards are free (e.g. W3C, DOE), most standards are expensive and are not freely available on the web.  The library provides access to only a fraction of the total number of standards.

  • IEEE standards can be found in IEEE Xplore  
  • Click on Browse (top left side) and select Standards
  • You can search by number (if you know the standard you need) or by keyword 

For all other standards see our Finding Engineering Standards and Specifications guide


IEEE Standards Glossary

Standard: "A standard is a document that defines the characteristics of a product, process or service, such as dimensions, safety aspects, and performance requirements."

Code: "Laws or regulations that specify minimum standards to protect public safety and health such as codes for construction of buildings. Voluntary standards are incorporated into building codes.”

Specification: "A set of conditions and requirements of precise and limited application that provide a detailed description of a procedure, process, material, product, or service for use primarily in procurement and manufacturing. Standards may be referenced or included in specifications."

"One way of looking at the differences between codes and standards is that a code tells you what you need to do, and a standards tells you how to do it. A code may say that a building must have a fire-alarm system. The standard will spell out what kind of system and how it must work." ~ NFPA

Why are standards important?

IEEE Standard Association states:

Standards form the fundamental building blocks for product development by establishing consistent protocols that can be universally understood and adopted. This helps fuel compatibility and interoperability and simplifies product development, and speeds time-to-market. Standards also make it easier to understand and compare competing products. As standards are globally adopted and applied in many markets, they also fuel international trade.

It is only through the use of standards that the requirements of interconnectivity and interoperability can be assured. It is only through the application of standards that the credibility of new products and new markets can be verified. In summary standards fuel the development and implementation of technologies that influence and transform the way we live, work and communicate.

Types of standards:

  • Category, type, dimension, structure, equipment, quality, grade, component, performance, durability, or safety 
  • Methods of manufacturing, methods of designing, methods of drawing, methods of using, or methods of operation of safety condition of production
  • Methods of testing, analyzing, appraising, verifying, or measuring 
  • Terms, abbreviations, symbols, marks, preferred numbers, or units 
  • Design, methods of execution, or safety conditions

Standards are created by a wide variety of organizations.  The most common are:

What are some points to remember when using standards? 

  • Some standards are government-mandated, and others are voluntary.  There may be various penalties associated with not adhering to the standard. 
  • Standards are updated frequently to keep pace with changing technology -- check to see if the standard you are using is the latest version. 
  • Older, superseded versions of standards may be useful in many cases, such as legal disputes concerning the performance of a product that was manufactured when the older standard was in force.  The Engineering Library DOES NOT maintain historical or superseded standards. 

Identifying Standards

  • Standards typically have a title and a report number associated with the organization that produced the standard.  

Examples include:

  • ASTM F1511 - Standard Specification for Mechanical Seals for Shipboard Pump Applications
  • IEEE 1708-2014 - Wearable Cuffless Blood Pressure Measuring Devices
  • MIL-DTL-641 - Jacks, Telephone General Specification for



IEEE standards and National Electrical Safety Code and Handbook

  • IEEE Xplore
    • Click on Browse at the top left and select Standards 

IEEE Redline Versions of Standards provides clearly highlighted changes in a standard to allow for quick and efficient changes to procedures, products, and more.

Redline versions of standards are beneficial as they allow technical professionals to easily see what has changed from the previous version, leading to faster implementation of necessary changes.


For non IEEE standards:

IEEE Standards University - classes, workshops, e-zines, student grants, news, etc. - offers background materials and useful links for locating information about the use of standards in government. 

University Outreach Program - ANSI Education and Training

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