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What are some tips for reading a datasheet?


Datasheet Preview

If you’re searching for a part to use in a project or troubleshooting one, a datasheet will often have the critical information for a solution. They can quickly be scanned to find out the operating parameters like min/max values for V/A/W/input signal requirements/etc to see if the part meets your needs or if it is operating within the specified parameters in your project.

Datasheet showing Electrical Characteristics

I like to scan for tables and charts that cover the specs I’m most interested in. Another way is to scan for keywords - sometimes the writers help with bold text or section titles. Typically you’ll be looking at datasheets in .pdf format or in a browser, opening up the document to searching and other helpful tools. One place to definitely check out is the pinouts of components, they are usually in a drawing or in a table format. These can give a very quick idea of the basics like power/ground, tying pins to high/low/floating if necessary, and layout considerations. It may be shocking but sometimes it is useful to break down and read the Table of Contents too!

Datasheet showing pinout of components

There can be an overwhelming amount of information about a given part so remember to focus on the important information you came for like the power specifications for your project, logic operations, input/output parameters, channels, etc.

Datasheet showing part number of components

Double check the part number you have (or are evaluating) so that the info in the datasheet applies to your part number or variant, sometimes a letter or number in the part number can really make a difference in it’s capabilities. Parts also typically come in several package variations, and that can change the number of inputs/outputs, power handling, size, mounting style etc.

Datasheet Application Circuit Schematics

Datasheets often have typical application circuit schematics that are very helpful to determine your BOM for supporting components, and help understand the operation of the part. If they are lacking application details, datasheets usually refer to ‘Application Notes’ that will have more application specific information.

Datasheet Source:

Texas Instruments, "LM158, LM258, LM358, LM2904 Dual Operational Amplifiers datasheet (Rev. V)," SLOS068V, June 1976 [Revised September 2018]
Authored By

Gary Crowell

Avid biker, audio enthusiast, tinkerer, and radio/autonomous car racer. Also work with PCBs, electronic/mechanical design, and programming, so I really get interested if the project is mechatronic.

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