CIAN Forum 2004 Taxonomies, thesauri, subject headings – what are they and how do we use them?
The terms ontology , taxonomy , thesaurus, categories, subject headings, indexes and classifications all describe ways of organising things – eg information, objects - into categories so that they can be identified, located and retrieved.
What is ontology?
The study of what kinds of things exist, the nature of being.
In the information technology context:
the specification of conceptualisations used to help programs and humans share knowledge.
What is a taxonomy?
A taxonomy is a system, usually hierarchical, for naming and organising things into groups that share similar characteristics.
The concept of modern taxonomy originated in the 1700s when the Swedish botanist, Linnaeus, developed a system of classification and nomenclature for living organisms. This is still widely used.
The development of a good taxonomy involves separating elements of a group into subgroups that are mutually exclusive, unambiguous, and taken together, include all possibilities.
A thesaurus is an example of a taxonomy.
What is a thesaurus?
A structured vocabulary, typically including synonyms and/or hierarchical relationships, for the purpose of indexing and cross-referencing in order to organise a collection of concepts for reference and retrieval.
CISA’s Community Services Thesaurus is used in South Australia by community information managers to index services for retrieval by subject searching.
Examples of thesauri
Art & Architecture Thesaurus
The AAT contains around 125,000 terms describing art, architecture, decorative arts, material culture, and archival materials.