Finding Standards

What are standards?

Standards are guidelines or rules for products, processes, test methods, or materials.

These are created to produce a level of uniformity, interchangeability, reliability, or means of comparison.

Standards influence daily life including our method of communication, the products we use, how we travel to work, and what we eat.

Types of Standards

Standards are produced by many different organizations. A product or company may operate under multiple types of standards at any given time.

Company – these are of local significance and typically only apply to a specific company or product.

Industry – these are for an entire industry, such as sheet metal fabrication, to ensure that no matter what company produces the product they all meet the same requirements.

Government – these can be created by Federal, State, or local agencies and are most typically safety standards or requirements mandated by law.

International – these standards are usually developed and made official by international government or non-government organizations like NATO or the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

Locating standards

Standards can range in cost from $25 to $10,000 or more. This makes can make access difficult for researchers.

Identifying standards

Standards are typically identified by organization produced and number.

For example:

ISO 9001:2008 – Quality management systems

  • Created by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

ASTM F963-11 – Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety

  • Created by the American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM)

MIL-STD-1472G – Department of Defense Design Criteria Standard: Human Engineering

  • Created by the U.S. Military (MIL), specifically the Department of Defense.

Searching for Standards

There are several open access search engines that can be used to locate standard.

  • Considered the most comprehensive standards search engine with over 300,000 records from organizations accredited by ANSI (the American national standards institute), government agencies, industries, and international organizations

IHS Global

  • Contains mostly technical, government, and military standards

  • Contains background materials and information about the use of standards in U.S. government with the primary focus on federal agency use of standards for regulatory purposes.

Libraries and Standards

Since standards can be expensive to purchase, many users will want to find an alternative method of access. Not all libraries own standards and there fewer and fewer collecting them but WorldCat provides information on what libraries do own standards and if they can be borrowed through interlibrary loan.

The search engines mentioned above are an important step in locating standards because each library catalogs them differently. They could be under the title, standard number, or collected as a series under the sponsoring organization. Finding the full citation in a standards search engine will improve the odds of locating the standard in WorldCat for library users.

Angela R. Davis, Engineering Liaison Librarian, Penn State,

We welcome your comments and suggestions. If you have a resource that you would like to see highlighted please leave us a comment.


One thought on “Finding Standards

  1. STS Science Resources December 17, 2015 / 12:00 pm

    Anyone interested in “standards in education” should check out IEEE Standards University:
    Classes, workshops, student grants, “practical ideas from professors”, news, etc.

    Kristen MacCartney
    IEEE Senior University Partnership Program Manager


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