A document (noun) is a bounded physical
representation of body of information de-
signed with the capacity (and usually intent)
to communicate. A document may manifest
symbolic, diagrammatic or sensory-repres-
entational information. To document (verb) is
to produce a document artifact by collecting
and representing information. In prototypical
usage, a document is understood as a paper
artifact, containing information in the form of
ink marks. Increasingly documents are also
understood as digital artifacts.
Colloquial usage is revealed by the con-
notations and denotations that appear in a
Web search for document. From these us-
ages, one can infer the following typical
• Writing that provides information person’s
thinking by means of symbolic marks.
• A written account of ownership or
• To record in detail; "The parents
documented every step of their child’s
• A digital file in a particular format.
• To support or supply with references;
"Can you document your claims?".
• An artifact that meets a legal notion of
document for purposes of discovery in
The variety of usage reveals that the notion
of document has rich social and cultural as-
pects besides the physical, functional and op-
Conceptualization in ana-
The notion of document admits both an em-
pirical (in terms of a fuzzy set of real-world
instances) and analytical characterization.
The analytical characterization hinges on the
semantic character of the word document, as
well as the use of a primitive notion of docu-
ment in accounts of larger communication
constructs such as discourses, or related con-
structs such as language games.
The nominal ’document’, like other nomin-
als, exhibits familiar patterns of polysemy (a
kind of ambiguity). For example, "document"
might be used on an occasion to denote a
certain body of information independently of
how that information is physically rendered
(as in ’the Bible is my favorite document.’;
’Have you finished r