authenticMaterialsAuthentic Materials

About Authentic Materials | List All | Glossary | Search | Instructions / PDF Files

Introduction to Document Use

Document Use refers to tasks that involve a variety of information displays in which words, numbers, icons and other visual characteristics (e.g., line, colour, shape) are given meaning by their spatial arrangement. Workplace examples of documents include graphs, lists, tables, blueprints, schematics, drawings, signs and labels.

If a document includes a paragraph of text, as may be the case on a label or a completed form, it is also included in Reading Text. Documents requiring the entry of words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs are also included in Writing.

Document Use is rated on a five-level scale of complexity. The higher the rating, the more complex the task. The rating scale takes into account:

  • the complexity of the document(s) (i.e., complexity attributable to the structure of the document, number of documents and document type);
  • the complexity of finding/entering information (i.e., complexity attributable to the information search and information entry); and
  • the complexity of information use (i.e., complexity attributable to the content knowledge prerequiSites and thinking process).

Each level of the scale is defined with reference to all of these dimensions. The complexity rating assigned to a task is the best summary description of its level of complexity.

The levels of the document use complexity scale are compatible with those used in the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), except that IALS Level 4 has been broken down into our Levels 4 and 5.

Document Use - Illustrative Examples

Here are some examples of the various levels of the Document Use complexity rating scale.

Level 1

Bylaw enforcement officers read lists of subpoenas and Court dates.

Railway track maintenance workers may read computer printouts showing the actual and the required grade levels for various tracks.

Automotive mechanical installers and servicers identify Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) icons.

Level 2

Estheticians, electrologists and workers in related occupations may read equipment catalogues when purchasing new equipment.

Visiting homemakers, housekeepers and workers in related occupations read work schedules and assignment sheets to determine work locations, times and duties.

Workers in dry cleaning, laundry and finishing occupations read colour codes to determine the correct amount of chemicals needed to remove stains.

Level 3

Computer operators interpret troubleshooting charts and diagnostic tables in computer manuals.

Optometrist assistants use diagrams to identify the angles for inserting and removing contact lenses.

Boat operators read tide tables to know whether the tide is ebbing or rising and to determine the depth of tide waters at particular times.

Level 4

Forging machine operators interpret isometric drawings to bend metal according to the customers' specifications and blueprints to set up the machine for the required tolerances.

Golf club general managers interpret scale drawings such as blueprints, golf course plans, topographical maps, architectural drawings and drawings showing drainage and irrigation.

Heritage interpreters read archival documents such as forms that may be old, cryptic and difficult to understand.

Level 5

Silviculture workers refer to different types of maps including forest cover maps, aerial maps, contour maps, road maps, landscape maps, guide and trapper maps, and maps showing houses belonging to native groups as well as forestry manuals. They synthesize the information from these documents when developing silviculture planting plans.

Meteorologists analyze and synthesize information on numerous variables obtained from many document types in order to forecast weather. They analyze and synthesize information on hard-to-predict factors, a task requiring considerable specialized knowledge.

Document Use - Formal Definitions

Here are some basic descriptions as to the context of the various levels of the Document Use complexity rating scale items.

Dimension: Complexity of the Document(s)

Level 1

Level 2

  • Document is simple. Multiple pieces of information. E.g., simple tables (i.e., small amount of information, no subparts).
  • One document or multiple documents of the same type.

Level 3

  • Document is somewhat complex. Multiple pieces of information organized in sections with sub-headings or subparts. E.g., complex tables. Or
  • May be multiple simple documents which may include more than one document type (e.g., pie chart and bar graph).
  • May be specialized document types (i.e., familiarity with the document type is required for interpretation). E.g., Pareto charts, isometric drawings, Gantt charts.

Level 4

  • Document is complex. Multiple pieces of information organized in multiple sections with one additional component, such as colour coding, scale, perspective and symbols. E.g., complex paint charts, floor plans. Or
  • Multiple documents and multiple types.
  • Specialized document types (i.e., familiarity with the document type is required for interpretation). E.g., Pareto charts, isometric drawings, Gantt charts.

Level 5

  • Document is complex. Multiple pieces of information organized in multiple sections with two or more additional components, such as colour coding, scale, perspective and symbols. E.g., intricate aerial maps, isometric drawings. Or
  • Multiple documents and multiple types.
  • Specialized document types (i.e., familiarity with the document type is required for interpretation). E.g., Pareto charts, isometric drawings, Gantt charts.

Dimension: Complexity of Finding/ Entering Information

Level 1

Information Search

  • Limited search using key words, numbers, icons or other visual characteristics (e.g., line, colour, shape) to locate information.

Information Entry

  • Entering few pieces of information.
  • Thinking Process
  • Minimal inference is required. Information found or entered in the document is a literal match (i.e., identical) to the information required.
  • Information needed is immediate and obvious.
Level 2

Information Search

  • Locating one or more pieces of information using:
    • one or two search criteria (e.g., using menu headings to find vegetarian choices); Or
    • consecutive searches with the same one or two search criteria (e.g., using a phone list to find phone numbers for several people).

Information Entry

  • Entering several pieces of information.

Thinking Process

  • A low level of inference is required. Information found or entered in the document(s) is a synonymous match (i.e., obviously related) to the information required.
  • Information needed is fairly evident.
Level 3

Information Search

  • Locating one or more pieces of information using:
    • multiple search criteria, Or
    • the results of one search in a subsequent search (e.g., finding the chemical composition of paint from its label and then using that information to search Material Safety Data Sheets)

Information Entry

  • Entering multiple pieces of information.

Thinking Process

  • A moderate degree of inference is required. The match between the information found or entered in the document(s) and the information required may be ambiguous.
Level 4

Information Search

  • Locating multiple pieces of information using:
    • multiple search criteria which may have to be developed by the user, Or
    • the results of one search in a subsequent search.

Information Entry

  • Entering multiple pieces of information.
  • Considerable inference may be required. Match between the information found or entered in the document(s) and the information required is ambiguous. One or more distractors may hinder the process of finding and/or entering the correct information.
  • The information needed may be mentally restructured into categories devised by the user.
Level 5

Information Search

  • Locating multiple pieces of information using:<
    • multiple search criteria which may have to be developed by the user; Or
    • the results of one search in a subsequent search, possibly based on criteria developed by the user.

Information Entry

  • Entering multiple pieces of information.

Thinking Process

  • A high level of inference is required. The match between the information found or entered in the document(s) and the information required is ambiguous. Multiple distractors may hinder the process of finding and/or entering the correct information.
  • The information needed is mentally restructured into categories devised by the user.

Dimension: Complexity of Information Use

Level 1

  • No knowledge of the content (i.e., substance) of the document is required to use the information.
  • No analysis required.
  • Information is used in the form it is found.
  • Information is entered in the form it is found.

Level 2

  • Limited knowledge of the content (i.e., substance) of the document may be required to use the information.
  • Limited analysis required.
  • Information found in the document(s) may be rearranged to make simple comparisons. E.g., preparing a list of the top ten sales representatives each month to compare performance.
  • Information available may be rearranged for entry onto the document. E.g., rearrange alphabetically listed contacts into a listing by province.

Level 3

  • Some knowledge of the content (i.e., substance) of the document is required to use the information.
  • Some analysis required involving selection and integration of information.
  • Information found in the document(s) must be integrated. E.g., integrate information from two diagrams in a repair manual to troubleshoot the problem.
  • Information must be combined for entry onto the document. E.g., completing a monthly quality control form by integrating information from several production lines.

Level 4

  • Specialized knowledge of the content (i.e., substance) of the document may be required.
  • Multiple pieces of information from multiple sources are synthesized. The quality of information may be evaluated for accuracy and omissions.
  • Information found in the document(s) is synthesized and possibly evaluated. E.g., weather forecasting using data synthesized from many sources and evaluated as to its accuracy.
  • Information must be synthesized for entry onto the document. E.g., preparing tax returns using data from many sources.

Level 5

  • Specialized knowledge of the content (i.e., substance) of the document is required.
  • Information is evaluated to make judgements of quality based on criteria and/or to draw conclusions. E.g., critique research data to note methodological flaws.