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What Is Body of Knowledge?

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  • Written By: Mark Wollacott
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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A body of knowledge is the total amount of concepts, information, activities and documentation of a professional organization or group. The information is reduced into a book, resource or online library for reference by members of that group or organization. This information includes all terminology. It can be shortened to BoK or Bok and represents groups as diverse as surveyors, doctors and masseuses.

Knowledge represents the state of knowing something. This information can be gained through experience or through learning. There is some debate as to whether learned experience truly counts as knowledge or not, as the information is purely theoretical. A body of knowledge, such as an encyclopedia, aims to capture as much information and knowledge as possible for the benefit of all readers.

The creation of a body of knowledge is a form of library and information science (LIS). This falls into two main subdivisions of information management: knowledge organization and knowledge representation. The former is concerned with how information is recorded, indexed and grouped together. The latter is concerned with how the information is presented to readers; whether it is easy to understand, makes sense. The format, such as books, files and web pages, is also a concern of knowledge representation.

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A diverse range of professional and academic groups use a body of knowledge to organize themselves. It is often used by specific professional groups such as lawyers, doctors and surveyors; often subdivided by specialization or location. It is used to represent professions such as software engineers and therapists. A body of knowledge may also be devised by a university or university department. They have also been compiled for notions and concepts such as project management, infrastructure regulation and corporate governance.

Each body of knowledge is researched by members of the professional body and approved by its governing or member organization. Such publications can be made available to members free of charge, placed online or, more commonly, sold in book form. No profession is static and neither is information. Such knowledge books are updated at regular intervals to take into account new regulations, techniques, ideas and laws.

The body of knowledge book of the Association of Project Management (APM) is a case in point. It is broken down into a number of relevant subsections. These subsections include strategy execution, strategy planning, project management in context and governance. Such bodies of knowledge represent a practical guide or manual for reference and are useful to new or old members.

The possible problem with a body of knowledge is that it is not updated in real time. This means ever-changing laws and techniques will not appear until the next update in x-number of years time. They can also be overly relied upon to the detriment of innovation and self-learning through experience.

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