Identifying the information type

Concept, task and reference topics contain different types of content. Concept topics contain explanations, task topics contain procedural steps, and reference topics contain tabular look-up information.

An important skill of an author working in a DITA environment is typing information correctly into information types.

Of the three base DITA information types:

  • Concept topics are used for overviews of tasks or overviews of reference information. They tend to be short and simple.
  • Task topics contain procedural steps.
  • Reference topics detail properties and other reference (as opposed to narrative) information, typically in tabular form.
In some types of documents, an instruction may be described with a set of concept, task and reference topics. For example, the use of a car's alarm system may be covered by:
  • Alarm systems (concept)
  • Setting the alarm (task)
  • Alarm codes (reference)

Such a set of topics would be associated using a reltable, so that the topics would be linked or associated in the deliverable document. A typical procedure will require a concept topic and a task topic, and may require a reference topic.

While task information is generally easy to identify, it can be difficult to distinguish concept from reference information. Table 1 explains some of the characteristics of concept topics compared with reference topics.

Table 1. Characteristics of concept and reference topics
  Concept Reference



Access Frequency

A few times

Repeatedly, when needed

Book Context

Front, Middle


Content or Data