Taxonomy is the science of classifying living things. Some call it the Dewey Decimal System of evolution, but it encompasses so much more. It tells the story of life – and that is a pretty great story.

Well-built taxonomies are the core of successful knowledge management. Pioneered and perfected, the development and deployment of taxonomies provide knowledge management, observing the essential guiding principles needed for effective and efficient knowledge organization.

Without the purpose-built taxonomy, the language of the knowledge contributor and the language of the knowledge user will typically fail to be bridged. Taxonomies are all about connections and relationships. The defining characteristic of taxonomies is hierarchical relationships. It is vital to ensure the hierarchical development is accurate and the relationships are true.

A taxonomy is a knowledge organization system, a set of words that have been organized to control the use of terms used in a subject field into a vocabulary. A controlled vocabulary focuses on concepts, not the items themselves. A thesaurus is a controlled vocabulary of terms in natural language order.

Taxonomies enable an organization to successfully search for specific objects because of the order established. Finding things is why taxonomies exist to begin with.

There are and will continue to be many new and emerging concepts in science, technology, and other fields. Taxonomies can help define the terminology for those concepts. This is perhaps most evident for genus-species-subspecies-etc. names, whose designation is the territory of the biological taxonomist, or the biologist temporarily acting as taxonomist.

Elsewhere, taxonomists can identify predominant labels and the occasionally used synonyms, and then use that information to add appropriate preferred terms and non-preferred synonyms to a vocabulary. They can also add definitions and scope notes, which further add to the structure of the hierarchy. The skills of the taxonomist can bring clarity to formerly mysterious concepts and nomenclature. 

A taxonomist is the author of a great story.

When it comes to classifying anything – insects, fruit, sports or candy – it is important to remember the value of a solid taxonomy and its role in the search and find process. How the content is classified impacts the findability of your data. Access Innovations has extensive experience in constructing taxonomies for academic publishers and business – large and small. They are one of a very small number of companies able to help its clients generate ANSI/ISO/W3C-compliant taxonomies and associated rule bases for machine-assisted indexing to improve findability.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in thesaurus, ontology, and taxonomy creation and metadata application.