A guidance document is a type of formal publication that provides instructions and suggestions which readers can use while engaging in the tasks related to that particular document. Government entities often publish documents of this type to aid individuals and businesses in complying with regulations that are issued by regulatory agencies, providing valuable information in an organized format. Along with government agencies, businesses also sometimes issue guidance documents that aid in the management of a project or the operation of a branch of a company that is established in an international location.
While there is no universal format for a guidance document, there are certain elements included in just about every publication of this type. The documents will normally include an introduction that provides the reader with some background on the subject matter addressed in the later sections. It is not unusual for the introduction to also outline the reasons for the preparation of the guidance document and provide an overview of the goals that the publisher has in terms of value to the readers.
Along with the introduction, a guidance document will normally be structured into a series of chapters that address key issues related to the subject matter. Each topic is discussed in detail, including information on possible uses, any laws or regulations that must be kept in mind as part of that usage, and what type of penalties may be incurred as the result of non-compliance. The idea is to provide a quick and easy way for readers to find the information relevant to a proposed activity, and use that data to structure the activity in a manner that is meets all legal requirements currently in place.
It is not unusual for a guidance document to include a question and answer section as well as a glossary of terms. The Q&A section will cover scenarios that are commonly experienced when attempting to perform tasks relevant to the subject matter of the document, pointing out ways to manage the tasks and still remain in harmony with safety and other governmental standards. Including a glossary of terms can help readers quickly locate a definition of phrases and terms that are used in the main body of the guidance document, making it easier to understand the context of the information provided.
Depending on the subject of the guidance document, the publication may be somewhat brief and simplistic, or may include a large number of pages that contain text, illustrations, and whatever else may be required to explore a subject that is somewhat complex. Government agencies often provide these documents to companies at either no charge or for a small fee. As a one-stop resource containing data relevant to specific situations, a guidance document can help companies avoid failure to comply with governmental regulations and prevent the necessity of making costly changes to a business operation as a result of that non-compliance.