From Unstructured Documentation to Structured Topics

A session at Society for Technical Communication Summit 2014

Monday 19th May, 2014

9:45am to 10:30am

You're sold on the benefits of structured content, but don't know how to begin? This session shows you how to implement topic-based authoring by converting existing unstructured documentation into structured topics, even in regular office software such as Word.

The underlying process works for online help, user manuals, but also other content, such as wiki articles, training materials, etc., as long as you know which deliverables you need to create and their approximate purpose.

There are several stages to the process. First, you identify topic type or types per content section, for example, concept, task, reference, or use case. Content which mixes topic types can be sorted out with a little care.

Second, re-chunk your sections to turn them into stand-alone topics. You can delete redundant or obsolete information which does not belong into a topic. Or you can spin it off into a topic of its own or integrate it with another, more suitable topic. Special strategies help you to deal with topics that are too complex.

Third, re-sequence your topics, so they flow nicely when users read not just one or two of them, but need to follow a complete process. If the topic sequence doesn’t flow nicely, you may need to add some auxiliary topics which orient readers and ensure a good flow.

Fourth, rewrite headings to guide readers to give users enough orientation when they read just one or two topics. Rephrase them so users can quickly dip in and out of your documentation.

Last, add links between related topics to ensure that the structured topics work in various use cases, even if users refer only to few topics.

This presentation emphasizes practical tasks; you will learn:

  • How and why to create a content model
  • How to identify topic types in existing content
  • How to re-chunk content into true topics
  • How to sequence your topics
  • How and why to write good headings for your topics
  • How to link related topics

About the speaker

This person is speaking at this event.
Kai Weber

Passionate about #techcomm to make users excel and look good.

24 attendees

  • Cassandra Oxford
  • charmaine weston
  • January
  • Jay Rice
  • Jonathon Colman
  • Cheri Jerue
  • Jimmy Yellen
  • Karen
  • Larry Sherman
  • Marlowe (Sarah) Beckley
  • Marnee Hathawat
  • Marnee H
  • Matthew West
  • Patty Gale
  • Paul Mueller
  • Stephanie Saylor
  • Marlowe (Sarah) Beckley
  • Michael Opsteegh
  • Todd DeLuca
  • Kai Weber
  • Tony McHatton
  • Tom Embaugh
  • Vic Bhai
  • Yvette Daniel

3 trackers

  • Cindy Pao
  • David Wilks
  • Rosie Arcelay

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Time 9:45am10:30am MST

Date Mon 19th May 2014

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