Thesaurus Construction and Maintenance – Week 12

Batty, David. “Thesaurus Construction and Maintenance: A Survival Kit.” Database 13. February 1989. pp. 461 – 468.

The use of a thesaurus can facilitate the search for information. The building of thesauri, therefore, is an integral part of information management. Planning and developing a thesaurus involves several basic steps. The users of the thesaurus must be identified along with their needs and expectations such as controlled language or free text searching. The range and depth of the thesaurus must be defined with respect to the core area, fringe areas, and outside areas. Sources of the raw vocabulary must be identified, and then raw vocabulary must be collected and recorded. The raw terms should then be organized into clusters of associated terms. These clusters of terms should be mutually exclusive whenever possible. Notations may be applied as a means to order these clusters and subclusters in a meaningful and useful manner. Priority of clusters will generally be implied through the notational structure. After clustering and possibly notating, the raw vocabulary of the emerging thesaurus must be refined into the form that will be used by indexers and searcher. This refining process should include confirming the level of detail needed, translating the raw vocabulary into terms acceptable to users, distinguishing between homographs or the same word that has different applications in the thesaurus, and adding scope notes to clarify the way in which a term should be used. The development of the thesaurus is completed with the addition of the RT relationship to a term. The RT designation must be inserted deliberately by the lexicographer as it does not emerge in the clustering phase of thesaurus building. Maintaining the thesaurus involves adding new terms, deleting existing terms, and amending terms that are confusing or have typographical or spelling errors. Managing maintenance should be the responsibility of a single office or person to maintain consistency, and changes to the thesaurus should be communicated expeditiously to users. Software for thesaurus management may ease some aspects of maintenance but good indexers and lexicographers are still essential.

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