The <reference> element defines a top-level container for a reference topic. Reference topics document programming constructs or facts about a product. Examples of reference topics include (but are not limited to) product specifications, environmental specifications, equipment lists, parts lists, required tools, language elements, class descriptions, commands, functions, and API information. All of these items provide quick access to facts, but no deeper explanation of related concepts or tasks. Reference topics have the same high-level structure as any other topic type, with a title, short description, and body. Within the body, reference topics are typically organized into one or more sections, property lists, and tables. The reference topic type provides general rules that apply to all kinds of reference information, using elements like <refsyn> for syntax or signatures, and <properties> for lists of properties and values.



These models represent only the default document types distributed by OASIS. Actual content models will differ with each new document type.
Doctype Content model
ditabase ( (title) then (titlealts) (optional) then (abstract or shortdesc) (optional) then (prolog) (optional) then (refbody) (optional) then (related-links) (optional) then (topic or concept or task or reference or glossentry or glossgroup) (any number) )
reference ( (title) then (titlealts) (optional) then (abstract or shortdesc) (optional) then (prolog) (optional) then (refbody) (optional) then (related-links) (optional) then (reference) (any number) )
learningContent ( (title) then (titlealts) (optional) then (abstract or shortdesc) (optional) then (prolog) (optional) then (refbody) (optional) then (related-links) (optional) then ( (no-topic-nesting) (optional) ) (any number) )

Contained by

Doctype Content model
ditabase dita, topic, concept, task, reference
reference reference
learningContent learningContent


- topic/topic reference/reference


Reference topic for software material

<reference id="refexample">
  <title>A reference topic/title>
    <refsyn>Describe command or api syntax here, possibly
using synph or syntax elements markup for explicit 
definition of syntax or prototype construction.</refsyn>
    <section><title>Some section title</title></section>

Reference topic for hardware maintenance

The following information could apply to an entire set of maintenance procedures, each of which would link to this topic.

<reference id="requiredTools">
  <title>Tools required to maintain a big machine</title>
      <title>Small tools</title>
        <li>Hard hat</li>
        <li>Metal polish</li>
        <!-- .... -->
      <title>Expensive tools</title>


Name Description Data Type Default Value Required?
id This ID enables topics to be referenced uniquely by topicrefs in DITA maps. ID Yes
conref-atts attribute group (conref, conrefend, conaction, conkeyref) A set of related attributes; includes all of the attributes described in id-atts attribute group except for the id attribute.
xmlns:ditaarch Declares the default DITA namespace. "http://dita.​oasis-open.​org/​architecture/​2005/"
DITAArchVersion Designates the version of the architecture that is in use. The default value will increase with each release of DITA. CDATA "1.2" No
domains Indicates the specialized domains that are included in the DTD or Schema. This value will differ depending on what domains are included in the current DTD or Schema. CDATA Varies based on the DTD or Schema; a sample value is "(topic ui-d) (topic hi-d) (topic pr-d) (topic sw-d) (topic ut-d) (topic indexing-d)" No
select-atts attribute group (props, base, platform, product, audience, otherprops, importance, rev, status) A set of related attributes, described in select-atts attribute group
localization-atts attribute group (translate, xml:lang, dir) A set of related attributes, described in localization-atts attribute group.
global-atts attribute group (xtrf, xtrc) A set of related attributes, described in global-atts attribute group
class, outputclass Common attributes described in Other common DITA attributes

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