Standard Operating Procedure (SOP): Purpose, Content & Structure

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  • 0:00 Definition of SOP
  • 0:36 Purpose of SOPs
  • 1:09 Structure of SOPs
  • 3:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

Standardization is key to efficiency and productivity in the business world, and necessary in the technical and scientific realm. In this lesson, you'll learn about standard operating procedures, including their purpose, content, and structure.

Definition of Standard Operating Procedure

Alice works as a lab technician for a research lab at a university. She spends most of her day preparing lab specimens for the research scientists to examine and analyze for their respective research. She is required to follow a standard operating procedure in preparing the specimens. A standard operating procedure (SOP) is simply a document providing instructions on how a person should perform a routine or technical task followed by either a business or industry.

Purpose of SOPs

SOPs provide consistency and predictability and help ensure quality of outcome. This is particularly important in technical and scientific fields such as Alice's, where a failure to use consistent research procedures can either destroy the research or put its conclusions in serious doubt. For example, if Alice fails to sterilize a petri dish before placing a specimen in it, there is really no way to confirm that the contaminated petri dish didn't have an effect on the outcome.

Structure of SOPs

While SOPs are quite diverse, they do tend to share a fairly common structure from a document standpoint, including:

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