A thesaurus is a special type of controlled vocabulary, which is itself a list of specifically selected terms to represent a set of concepts – concepts described in an electronic collection of documents, podcasts, captioned photos, emails, or other types of content.

As content merchants (journal publishers and aggregators, specialized news delivery services, consultants) can attest, a controlled list of concept terms is essential for consistent indexing and ease of searching. With concept terms displayed in a hierarchical tree, like a classic taxonomy, users can most easily locate the term they are interested in using. A thesaurus adds value by describing rich relationships of various sorts, between terms near and far from each other in the tree, between alternate expressions of the concept and the “preferred” term, and between terms and notes about their origin and use, all of which, being electronic, can be used to deliver value to the end user.

A well-structured thesaurus hierarchy enables editorial staff to “drill down” into more and more specific categories, and to readily browse similar neighboring categories, to find the best terms for indexing. It invites web users to explore categories of interest, and to steer toward categories most closely meeting their interests and needs. Terms that logically belong to more than one broader category can be found by various pathways. The broader term – narrower term relationships are established with rigorous logic so that users can anticipate where to find a term for the desired subject area, and so that the thesaurus lends itself to further development.

The term records of a well-constructed thesaurus contain indications of other terms in the thesaurus in which the user may be interested, as well as acronyms and non-preferred synonyms. The term records will also include editorial and scope notes, along with definitions as needed or desired. All elements recommended in the most widely recognized thesaurus standards are present.

Access Innovations is one of a small number of companies that can provide your organization with a well-constructed thesaurus.

Barbara Gilles, Access Innovations Thesaurian