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Taxonomy 101 – Key Terms and Concepts

At Taxonomy Boot Camp 2018, Heather Hedden, senior vocabulary editor, Gale/Cengage Learning, USA, and author of The Accidental Taxonomist, presented a “Taxonomy Workshop,” a wide-ranging introductory taxonomy tutorial covering key concepts to get attendees up-to-speed and prepare them to take on a role in a taxonomy project.

Taxonomy Boot Camp 2018 is a part of a unique program of five co-located conferences that includes KMWorld 2018Enterprise Search & DiscoveryText Analytics Forum ’18, and Office 365 Symposium.

Topics covered in Hedden’s presentation included comparisons and suitable applications of different types of taxonomies/controlled vocabularies (hierarchical, faceted, and thesauri), standards as applied to taxonomies, the relationship of taxonomies to metadata, best practices for developing terms and their relationships, and taxonomy management software.

As part of the presentation, Hedden covered the key differences between taxonomies and thesauri:

In taxonomies:

  • All terms belong to a limited number of major hierarchies (or facets) Ø
  • May bend standard (ANSI/NISO or ISO) hierarchical rules
  • Supports classification, categorization, concept organization (like Linnaean taxonomy)
  • Approach is a top-down navigation
  • Especially serving end-users when browsing

Taxonomies are for

  • Serving end users:
  • Content and terms that naturally can be categorized
  • A subject area with defined scope and limits  
  • Non-expert users, who benefit from guidance of hierarchies
  • Relatively small collections of terms

In thesauri:  

  • All terms have relationships, but “hierarchies” may be as few as 2 terms
  • Standard (ANSI/NISO or ISO) rules are strictly followed
  • Supports concept scoping, disambiguation, and relationships with similar concepts (like Roget’s)
  • Approach is term-centered and what terms are linked to/from it
  •  Especially serving indexers/ indexing

Thesauri are for:

  • Serving indexers and end users
  • Terms that are not easily categorized into hierarchies or facets
  • Multiple, overlapping subject areas or domains with diverse content
  • Users who are subject-matter experts and will likely look for specific terms  
  • Vocabulary that is large and/or constantly growing

Many presentations have already been made available online at www.taxonomybootcamp.com/2018/Presentations.aspx and others will become available after the presentations are given.

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