How to Write Purchase Specifications


Specifications are used by the University to describe what it intends to purchase. They are used by vendors to prepare bids to supply the items or services requested. During the evaluation of bids, the specifications are used to determine each bidder’s compliance with the requirements and ultimately to select the contracted vendor. For this reason specifications must be as generic as possible and express the University’s minimum needs, without any unjustified bias toward a specific brand. After an item has been delivered or a service performed, the written specification–to which the vendor bid–is the key legal document in settling any dispute concerning the quality of the product or service received.

Determining Your Requirements

If you have experience with different varieties and models of a product, it is much easier to document your requirements in the form of specifications. If you do not have this experience, it is helpful to discuss your options with a purchasing agent and often it is most helpful to have vendors demonstrate equipment for you. Although vendors obviously wish to sway your choice toward their equipment, a demonstration can be an enlightening experience which will make you much more knowledgeable of different products and their capabilities. However, a vendor should never be given the impression that providing a demonstration will advantage the vendor, which would be unfair to other vendors.

Brand-Specific Specifications

Brand-specific specifications are not to be used unless the particular requirement can only be met by the exact specifications offered by a particular piece of equipment. These items are generally more expensive since they often contain additional features. Generic specifications encourage competition. They should be used wherever possible. If a brand-specific requisition is submitted, it must be accompanied by a written justification explaining why the product is singularly able to meet the requirements.

Sole Source Justification

There may be some situations where a highly-specialized item is only available from one vendor. In other words, no other vendor has the item, or research dictates that only the requested vendor can provide the item for research continuity. Sole Source requests must be processed through Purchasing on a requisition. Visit the Waiver of Competitive Bidding page for more information.