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  • The concept of modern taxonomy originated in the 1700s when the Swedish botanist, Linnaeus, developed a system of classification and nomenclature for living organisms. In biology a species is place in a single location within a complex hierarchy that encompasses the following levels: Kingdom – Phylum – Class – Order – Family – Genus – Species. In information taxonomies, items may fit into one or more categories
  • The coverage of the AAT ranges from Antiquity to the present, and the scope is global.
  • Classification is a system for arranging publications according to broad fields of knowledge and specific subjects within each field. The examples here are all systems for bibliographic classification to determine the physical location of a publication on a shelf in a browsable arrangement.
  • Most library catalogues use a subject heading vocabulary developed by the Library of Congress (LC), which publishes these headings in a multi-volume set referred to as LCSH or "the big red books."
  • There are two major types of indexing languages: a) those using natural language terms or words (thesauri, subject headings systems) b) those using symbols: numbers, letters or combination of those (bibliographic classification)


  • 1. CIAN Forum 2004 Taxonomies, thesauri, subject headings – what are they and how do we use them?
  • 2.
    • 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.
  • 3. 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.
  • 4. 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.
  • 5.
    • 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.
  • 6. 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.
  • 7.
    • CISA’s Community Services Thesaurus is used in South Australia by community information managers to index services for retrieval by subject searching.
  • 8. Examples of thesauri
    • Art & Architecture Thesaurus
    • The AAT contains around 125,000 terms describing art, architecture, decorative arts, material culture, and archival materials.
    • www.getty.edu/research/conducting_research/vocabularies/aat/about.html
  • 9.
    • INFO LINE of Los Angeles Taxonomy of Human Services : a conceptual framework with standardized terminology and definitions for the field
    • Contains over 6300 terms, endorsed by AIRS and United Way and incorporated into major I & R software packages
    • www.infoline-la.org
  • 10.
    • APAIS Thesaurus
    • Lists subject terms used to index articles for APAIS: Australian Public Affairs Information Service, a subject guide to literature in the social sciences and humanities.
    • www.nla.gov.au/apais/thesaurus/about.html
  • 11.
    • Australian Institute of Family Studies - Family Thesaurus
    • Over 1800 terms covering terminology in family studies, an interdisciplinary field of study encompassing sociology, psychology, demography, education, family law, and history.
    • www.aifs.gov.au/institute/info/thesaurus.html
  • 12. Functions thesaurus
    • A ‘functions thesaurus’ emphasises its coverage of functions , which are units of business activity in an organisation or jurisdiction. It uses three levels:
      • function : activity : subject
    • but there is no inherent hierarchical relationship between function and activity, or between activity and subject
  • 13.
    • Examples:
    • AGIFT - Australian Governments' Interactive Functions Thesaurus, a web-based thesaurus that links plain English words with terms used by governments
    • www.naa.gov.au/recordkeeping/gov_online/agift/agift_faq.html
    • Keyword AAA - Australian standard public sector records management thesaurus
    • www.records.nsw.gov.au/publicsector/rk/aaa/KeywordAAA.htm
    • NZGLS thesauri (FONZ and SONZ)
    • Terms from both these thesauri are combined to describe government information, services and other resources in a consistent manner. Functions are activities; subjects are things or people
    • www.e-government.govt.nz/nzgls/thesauri/index.asp
  • 14. What is a classification scheme ?
    • A logical scheme for arrangement of knowledge, usually by subject.
    • Classification schemes can be alpha and/or numeric
  • 15.
    • Examples:
      • Library of Congress Classification
      • www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso
      • Dewey Decimal Classification
      • www.oclc.org/dewey
      • Universal Decimal Classification
      • A multilingual classification scheme for all fields of knowledge, adapted from the Dewey Decimal Classification
      • www.udcc.org/about.htm
  • 16.
    • Community information managers are familiar with subject indexing and creating publication or directory structures.
    • These are both ways of classifying information.
  • 17. What are subject headings?
      • An alphabetical list of words or phrases that represent a concept, eg Library of Congress Subject Headings.
  • 18. What is indexing ?
    • Indexing is describing or identifying a document in terms of subject content.
    • Index terms may be in natural language (eg Dublin Core Metadata Subject element) or controlled vocabulary or a classification notation.
  • 19.
    • There are a number of ways to create taxonomies and place information objects within their categories:
    • Automated – using computer programs
    • Semi automated – combination of computer and manual input
    • Manual – done entirely by a person
  • 20. CISA Thesaurus Revision
    • CISA is undertaking a comprehensive review of the Community Services Thesaurus.
    • A reference group will be established to oversee the process.
    • It will involve a section by section review of all terms with input from subject specialists, community information workers and others from the government and community sectors.