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Effective: 7/1/1992

Revised: 9/15/2003

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[ASU logo] CAM 102: Overview of Manual Development


To explain the seven stages of manual development

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Academic and Administrative Documents

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Developing a good manual takes thought, effort, and time. Although a desk manual can be effectively developed by one person, a larger manual requires a small committee. A committee generally makes better decisions about a manual’s audience, scope, and contents than does one individual. A committee also can share the writing and editing tasks associated with manual development.


Experience in developing manuals with university administrative units over several years has shown that developing a good manual requires much more than simply engaging in the writing process. Manuals are best developed using a seven-stage approach (see CAM 102A).


The committee must first focus on the purpose of the manual to be developed, its audience, and its scope. What does the group hope that the manual will accomplish? Who will use the manual, and what do those users need to know? The wise committee asks the intended users for suggestions.


Having determined the manual’s purpose, audience, and scope, the committee must then organize the project. Committee members should set tentative schedules for writing, editing, review, and production. They should set regular meeting times for review of the work in progress.


After developing a working organizational plan for manual development, the committee must then divide the writing tasks. Committee members usually do most of the writing, but they may wish to secure the agreement of others with particular expertise to write certain portions. The writers first need to collect sources of information such as memos or office records. They may need to interview knowledgeable individuals and take notes. Then they should proceed to write their manual sections, striving for clarity of expression and brevity. Short, easy-to-understand words and sentences are preferable.


The writers will want to edit their own work, perhaps several times, and then share their drafts with other committee members who will edit them further. Extensive editing and rewriting are to be expected. One committee member should be given authority to make editorial decisions for consistency of style in the final draft.


When the committee has generated an edited draft of the entire manual, it is time for others to review it. Two levels of review are helpful, an informal and a formal. An informal review can be done by coworkers. These reviewers can point out wording that is not clear and places where information is missing or in error. A formal review is performed by appropriate administrators in the department and by certain outside reviewers selected by the department. It is important to establish deadlines with the reviewers and with the administrator who will give final approval for publication.


The committee needs to complete a distribution list for the manual before production is complete. Labels can then be generated and ready when the manual has been printed, collated, and inserted in the binders. The committee also needs to establish deadlines with others involved in producing the manual.

Decisions about how to produce the manual will depend on the size of the manual and the extent of its distribution. A manual of comparatively few pages and of limited distribution may be produced “in-house.” Binders may be ordinary three-ring notebooks (D rings are best) with inexpensive tab dividers and typed or hand-lettered tabs. A manual of many pages and extensive distribution may be sent to a commercial printer suggested by the Department of Purchasing and Business Services. Binders for these manuals may bear a silk-screened logo and have commercially printed tab dividers.


Immediately after the manual has been distributed is the time to think about its revision. Production and distribution is not the end of the process, but rather the beginning of the first revision. Any manual should be updated at least every six months. It is best to establish a regular revision schedule from the start, fitting the revision schedule to the work cycle of the department.

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Some manual exhibits are available only in PDF format. An Adobe Acrobat Reader plug-in is required to view these PDF files. See our main policies and procedures page if you require this plug-in.

CAM 102A, Approach to Developing a Manual

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Note:Please be advised that the policies and procedures used as examples in the CAM manual are often out of date and no longer applicable. They were chosen as examples when the CAM manual was revised in 1992. To access the current policies and procedures manuals, please go to http://www.asu.edu/aad/manuals.

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