Controlled vocabularies have long been used in the indexes of serial publications and electronic databases; the subject headings used in library catalogues are also examples of controlled vocabularies. A thesaurus that is used in conjunction with a search engine provides more precise results than simple keyword searches.
Many web and intranet sites employ a list of terms that are ‘mapped’ or ‘linked’ to the information, so that users can find details they need quickly and easily; these lists of terms are often known as ‘taxonomies’ or ‘browse lists’.
A ‘thesaurus’ in indexing and information retrieval contexts is a tool for subject indexing and searching which:
- identifies relevant terminology for a subject area
- maintains vocabulary control
- presents a structure for the vocabulary
- provides a hierarchical display of Broader and Narrower terms within the subject field
- indicates relationships between terms (Related terms), and
- maps non-preferred synonyms to the preferred thesaurus term.
However, the term ‘thesaurus’ is often used loosely for any subject-related vocabulary.
A ‘taxonomy’ shows the organisation of a subject area, structured in a systematic or classified way which shows the relationships between its constituent concepts or classes. The word ‘taxonomy’ too is often used loosely to mean any sort of subject-related vocabulary.
Many indexers, especially those with a library background, are trained to use controlled vocabularies for indexing and searching specific subject areas. Some indexers work with website or database developers to incorporate a structured, controlled vocabulary into their work, or to supply metadata for websites. Indexers can also provide additional services involving thesauri. Some indexers are proficient at maintaining or updating existing thesauri. More experienced indexers can evaluate the effectiveness of a thesaurus and ensure it continues to meet an organisation’s changing information needs.
- General information
- Building and using a thesaurus — practical experience
- Australian and New Zealand thesauri
- Other lists of thesauri
- ANSI/NISO Z39.19 — Guidelines for the construction, format, and management of monolingual controlled vocabularies, National Information Standards Organization (US), 2010
- ISO 25964 — the international standard for thesauri and interoperability with other vocabularies, National Information Standards Organization (US)
. This standard replaced the previous standards ISO 2788 and ISO 5964.
- The accidental taxonomist, Heather Hedden, Medford, NJ: Information Today, 2010. Also blog
- Organising knowledge: taxonomies, knowledge and organisational effectiveness, Patrick Lambe, Oxford: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2007
- Essential thesaurus construction, Vanda Broughton, London: Facet Publishing, 2006
- The thesaurus; review, renaissance and revision, Sandra K. Roe and Alan R. Thomas (eds), Binghamption, NY:Haworth Press, 2004; co-published as Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, vol. 37, nos. 3/4, 2004
- ‘Thesauri, controlled vocabularies, and metadata’, Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville, Information architecture for the World Wide Web, 2nd ed, Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly & Associates inc., 2002, pp. 176–208
- Thesaurus construction and use; a practical manual, 4th edition, Jean Aitchison, Alan Gilchrist, David Bawden, London: Aslib, 2000
- Thesauri, American Society for Indexing
- Taxonomies & Controlled Vocabularies Special Interest Group (ASI): Website and Discussion group
- ‘Controlled vocabularies, thesauri and taxonomies’, by Heather Hedden, The Indexer, Vol. 26 No. 1 March 2008, pp. 33-34. A longer version is published in: Janet Perlman and Enid L. Zafran (eds), Index it right! Advice from the experts, volume 2, Wheat Ridge, CO: American Society for Indexing, 2010, pp. 67–76.
- Folksonomies [special issue], Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 2007, vol. 34, no. 1
- ‘Creating real-world ecommerce taxonomies: getting customers to products’, Fred Leise, in: Enid L Zafran (ed), Index it right! Advice from the experts, volume 3, Tempe, AZ: American Society for Indexing, 2014, pp. 5–14
- Introduction to controlled vocabularies: terminology for art, architecture, and other cultural works, Patricia Harpring, Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2010
- ‘Getting into taxonomy, part 1’, Bernadette Vaughan, ANZSI Newsletter, 2010, vol. 6, no. 10, pp. 8–9
- ‘Getting into taxonomy, part 2’, Bernadette Vaughan, ANZSI Newsletter, 2011, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 4–5
- ‘A study on the feasibility of subject authority control of web-based Persian medical databases: an Iranian experience’, Saeed Rezaei Sharifabadi, in: Mary Russell (ed), The Indexing life: proceedings from the Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers conference, 15–17 March 2007, Melbourne, Melbourne: Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers, 2007, pp. 88–99
- ‘NSW Branch taxonomy seminar’, Yvonne Bowyer, ANZSI Newsletter, 2006, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 6
- ‘Changes in the Health and Ageing Thesaurus and reindexing HealthInsite‘, Prue Deacon, ANZSI Newsletter, 2005, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 6–7
- ‘Thesaurus construction in an interdisciplinary soft science: producing a thesaurus for the Department of Environmental Protection, Perth, Western Australia’, Kathy Little and Maggie Exon, in: Max McMaster (ed) Indexers — partners in publishing. Proceedings from the first international conference, 31 March – 2 April, 1995, Marysville, Victoria, Melbourne: Australian Society of Indexers, 1995, pp. 162–169
- ‘Development of a thesaurus for the SAGE (Science and Geography Education) database’, Sherrey Quinn, in: Max McMaster (ed) Indexers — partners in publishing. Proceedings from the first international conference, 31 March – 2 April, 1995, Marysville, Victoria, Melbourne: Australian Society of Indexers, 1995, pp. 154–161
- see also articles in The Indexer, on ‘controlled vocabularies’, ‘taxonomy’, and ‘thesauri and glossaries’
- Research Vocabularies Australia – the controlled vocabulary discovery service of the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC)
- Australian Governments’ Interactive Functions Thesaurus (AGIFT)
- Australian Pictorial Thesaurus
- Australian Thesaurus of Education Descriptors (ATED)
- Australian Transport Index (ATRI) Thesaurus
- Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS): Pathways – subjects relating to Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies, language groups and people, and AUSTLANG – information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages
- Family Thesaurus, AIFS Library
- Functions of New Zealand Thesaurus (FONZ)
- Health Thesaurus
- Iwi-Hapu Names List
- Nga Upoko Tukutuku / Maori Subject Headings
- Powerhouse Museum Object Name Thesaurus
- Schools Online Thesaurus (ScOT)
- Subjects of New Zealand Thesaurus (SONZ)
- Online Thesauri and Authority Files, American Society for Indexing
- Controlled Vocabularies, Library of Congress