Controlled Vocabulary Management Systems

This blog includes some useful thoughts related to Controlled Vocabularly. Examples of controlled vocabularies are lists, synonym rings, taxonomies, and thesauri. Controlled vocabularies provide a way to organize knowledge for subsequent retrieval. They are used in subject indexing schemes, subject headings, thesauri, taxonomies and other forms of knowledge organization systems.

Below a short excerpt from Guidelines for the Construction, Format, and Management of Monolingual Controlled Vocabularies, ANSI/NISO Z39.19-2005

Controlled Vocabulary Management

A list of terms that have been enumerated explicitly. This list is controlled by and is available from a controlled vocabulary registration authority. All terms in a controlled vocabulary must have an unambiguous, non-redundant definition. Note: This is a design goal that may not be true in practice; it depends on how strict the controlled vocabulary registration authority is regarding registration of terms into a controlled vocabulary. At a minimum, the following two rules must be enforced:

  1. If the same term is commonly used to mean different concepts, then its name is explicitly qualified to resolve this ambiguity. Note: This rule does not apply to synonym rings.
  2. If multiple terms are used to mean the same thing, one of the terms is identified as the preferred term in the controlled vocabulary and the other terms are listed as synonyms or aliases.

post-itNot all Vocabularies are equal

Continuing this theme we need to remember that not all controlled vocabulary management systems are created equal.

When considering a CV management system, don’t settle for a system that can’t meet the unique needs of managing CVs. Make sure the system:

  • Allows you to create Use/Use For (U/UF), Broader Term/Narrower Term (BT/NT), and Related Term (RT) relationships
  • Allows adding scope and history information
  • Displays managed terms, at the least, in a hierarchy or in an alphabetically sorted list
  • Allows access by multiple users with various levels of access permission
  • Is platform agnostic
  • Comes with clear, concise documentation
  • Is flexible enough and scalable to evolve as technologies and your enterprise evolves
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