“There is a singular lack of vocabulary control in the field of controlled vocabularies.”
— Bella Hass WeinbergThis is part 4 in our continuing series on controlled vocabularies and faceted classification. Previous parts in the series include:
“There is a singular lack of vocabulary control in the field of controlled vocabularies,” Bella Hass Weinberg, professor of library science at St. John’s University in New York, is fond of saying.
To help you cut through the maze of verbiage often found in this field, we have created a glossary of terms.
The glossary reflects our usage of terms in the articles of this series. But this glossary is more than just a list of terms. We wanted it to serve as an illustration of what a controlled vocabulary looks like (we are fond of killing multiple birds with multiple stones).
Accordingly, the glossary is itself a controlled vocabulary, more specifically a thesaurus. So you will find all of the standard features of any thesaurus: broader, narrower, and variant term indicators, as well as scope notes. In this case, however, the scope notes provide the definition of the particular glossary term being presented.
The following standard abbreviations are used in the glosso-thesaurus.
BT = Broader Term
NT = Narrower Term
RT = Related Term (“See also”)
SN = Scope Note
UF = Used For
USE = “See” (Refers reader from variant term to vocabulary term.)
- SN The connection between related
- . That is, related terms are connected through an associative relationship.
- flat (non-hierarchical) list containing
- . May include
- . Essentially, an authority file is a
- with the preferred term identified for each concept.
- SN The superordinate word in an inclusion or
- . A class or category term. Abbreviated in displays as “BT.” The inversion of broader term is
- . For example, “shoe” is a broader term than “running shoe.” Broader terms are sometimes referred to as “parent” terms.
- SN An exercise that can be used to help create a
- . In a card sort, users are asked to group cards into like categories or to name categories of like items. Card sorting can be used to compile lists of variant terms or to verify the relationships in a hierarchy. For additional information, see
- by Donna Maurer or the
- subset of
- that is used to tag documents and then to find content through navigation or search. Use of a controlled vocabulary increases consistency in tagging and can help match users’ natural language with
- . Abbreviated as “CV.”
Controlled vocabularies exhibit the following relationships:
- SN The connection between terms in a
- , or between
- . Terms that exhibit an equivalence relationship refer to the same concept. For example, “cat” and “feline” are often considered as being equivalent.
- SN The range of concept coverage of
- in a
- . If the vocabulary terms cover all of the concepts included in the content under consideration, then the controlled vocabulary is exhaustive.
- fundamental category by which an object or concept may be described. For example, a child’s ball may be described using the facets of size, weight, shape, color, texture, material and price.
- SN The process of analyzing content to determine appropriate
- , using “one characteristic of division at a time, to produce homogeneous, mutually-exclusive groups.” *
* Aitchison, Jean, Alan Gilchrist, and David Bawden (2002). Thesaurus Construction and Use: A Practical Manual. 4th ed. Chicago: Fitzroy-Dearborn, pg. 70.
- that divides
- A method of vocabulary development in which users are asked to “name all the [x] you know.” Free listing can identify core terms in a
- , as well as
- . For additional information, see
- by Rashmi Sinha.
- SN The level of
- with which content is described. The more granular, the more specific.
- collection of
- that show levels of superordination and subordination. Hierarchies comprise
- . Hierarchies may be testing using
- SN The connection between
- in a
- SN The inclusion of a
- in a
- based on its appearance in one or more content items. For example, a medical text may use the term “oncology.” Based on literary warrant, that term would be included in the controlled vocabulary even though the general public uses the term “cancer.”
- SN The subordinate word in an inclusion or
- . A member or part. Abbreviated in displays at “NT.” For example, “running shoe” is a narrower term than “shoe.” Narrower terms are sometimes referred to as “child” terms.The inversion of narrower term is
- SN Language as it is spoken; language in everyday use.
USE Variant Term
- in which some
- have more than one
- . For example, “Rome” might be a narrower term under both “European capitals” and “Italian cities” in a geographic vocabulary.
- ratio that measures the success of a search. Precision is defined mathematically as the number of relevant items returned by a search divided by the total number of items returned by the search. Thus, a search that returned only relevant items would have a precision of 1.0.
Precision usually has an inverse relationship to recall. That is, increasing the precision of a search usually decreases the recall. Precision can be increased by increasing the specificity of vocabulary terms. For more information, see:
- SN The
- in a
- used to tag content.
- ratio that measures the success of a search. Recall is defined mathematically as the number of relevant items returned by a search divided by the total number of relevant items in the collection. Thus, a search that returned all the relevant items in a collection would have a recall of 1.0.
Recall can be increased by the use of synonym rings and variant terms. Recall usually has an inverse relationship to precision. That is, increasing the recall of a search usually decreases the precision. For more information, see:
- in a
- that are closely related. That is, they refer to closely related concepts. Abbreviated in displays as “RT.” Related terms may, for example, exhibit the following relationships:
field of study/objects studied
action/product of action
For additional information, see the section in associative relationships in What is A Controlled Vocabulary? by Karl Fast, Mike Steckel and Fred Leise.
UF “See Also” Term
RT Associative Relationship
- SN (1) A definition of a
- in a
- . (2) An indication of restrictions in meaning or other clarification needed for the proper use of the preferred term. Abbreviated in displays as “SN.” Examples of scope notes are provided throughout this glossary.
- SN The exactness with which a
- covers a concept. Thus, in considering the concept “dog,” the term “canine” is more specific than “animal.” Increasing specificity of vocabulary terms increases
- , but may decrease
SN Asynonym ring
- or an
- SN One of the simplest of
- . Includes only a list of
- terms. When one of the terms is searched, the synonym ring returns results as if the complete set of terms was searched.
- , the
- of which are all connected in a
- . Terms in a taxonomy may exhibit
- SN The type of association between
- . Terms may be broader, narrower, related or variant, exhibiting
- that indicates
- . In addition to the
- in a thesaurus exhibit both
- . These three relationships are called “standard thesaural relationships.” Thesauri are usually considered the most complex of controlled vocabularies.
- SN The inclusion of a
- in a
- based on use by users. Such terms can be identified through search log analysis or
SN Avocabulary term
- that means nearly the same thing as a
- . Variant terms are used in the
- to provide entry terms that lead to preferred terms. Variant terms may include synonyms, lexical variants, quasi-synonyms and abbreviations. Variant terms are sometimes referred to as “entry terms.” The collection of all variant terms may be referred to as the “entry vocabulary.”
- word or phrase in a
- . It may be a
- . Vocabulary terms may exhibit several types of
- All About Facets and Controlled Vocabularies (series introduction)
- What is a Controlled Vocabulary?
- Creating a Controlled Vocabulary
- Synonym Rings and Authority Files
- Pidcock, Woody (2003). “What are the differences between a vocabulary, a taxonomy, a thesaurus, an ontology, and a meta-model?”.
- Hagedorn, Kat (2000). The Information Architecture Glossary. Ann Arbor, MI: Argus Center for Information Architecture.
- IA Wiki (2003). IA Glossary.
Karl Fast is a PhD student in library and information science at the University of Western Ontario. He also has a master’s in LIS. His graduate work has included courses on organization of information, subject analysis, thesaurus construction, and facet analysis.
Fred Leise, president of ContextualAnalysis, LLC, is an information architecture consultant providing services in the areas of content analysis and organization, user experience design, taxonomy and thesaurus creation, and website and back-of-book indexing.
Mike Steckel is an Information Architect/Technical Librarian for International SEMATECH in Austin, TX.