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Tips on Searching for Standards

The following information should help guide you to find which standards document you are looking for.  When you've got the basic concepts, return to Learn How to Find Standards.

ICS codes

An ICS (International Classification of Standards) code is a hierarchical classification by subject assigned to almost all standards.  For example, 11 is the general area of Health Care Technology; 11.040 is medical equipment; 11.040.40 is Surgical equipment.

Using this code you can easily search for standards across many different standards collections. It is especially useful when search terms have a different spelling or meaning in different languages. For example, in English you would search for "tire", in UK-English the term is "tyre". Searching on the ICS code 83.160 will capture all variant spellings. The ICS Code Standard is free on the ISO website.

Standards identifiers

Standards documents are identified by a series of letters and numbers that can be mystifying. Each component has a meaning that will give you important information about the document, who issued it, and when.

Here are a few examples:

ASTM F963-08
ASTM = ASTM International, the standards developer responsible for this standard
F963 = the specific number for this standard
08 = this standard was approved in 2008

ANSI = this standard was approved by ANSI; it is an American National Standard
ANS = American Nuclear Society, the professional society that developed this standard
6.1.2 = The numeric identifier for this standard
1999 = The year of Approval
R2009 = The 1999 standard was reaffirmed as an American National Standard in 2009. No changes are made to a standard when it is reaffirmed.

How to Cite a Standard

Most standards are copyrighted documents. If you refer to a section of a standard or need to cite a standard here are some model citations.

Why aren't Standards Free?

The majority of standards developing organization depend on the revenue from the sale of standards to support their programs and services. But a growing number of standards organizations make access to their standards for viewing or download available for no cost. 

View a list of standards organizations that offer free access to their standards



  • Standards Coordination Office
    (301) 975-4000
    NIST, 100 Bureau Drive, Mail Stop 2100
    Gaithersburg, MD 20899-2100
Created July 28, 2016, Updated November 15, 2019