Thesaurus FAQs

1) What is a taxonomy / thesaurus?

2) How does the IEEE use the taxonomy and thesaurus?


1) What is a taxonomy / thesaurus?

Q: What is a thesaurus?
A: thesaurus is a networked collection of controlled vocabulary terms. This means that a thesaurus uses associative relationships in addition to parent-child relationships. The expressiveness of the associative relationships in a thesaurus vary and can be as simple as “related to term” as in term A is related to term B.
A thesaurus is a web of interconnected terms forming a closed, controlled vocabulary used to index content. It is controlled because all the terms are set (no others can be used) and relationships are defined.
Q: Where does the controlled vocabulary terms come from?
A: IEEE Publications Board has the IEEE Thesaurus Editorial Board of experts who review, update, and approve changes to the IEEE vocabulary documents, containing the vocabulary terms.
Q: What are the IEEE vocabulary documents?
A: IEEE Thesaurus Editorial Board has two documents: thesaurus of controlled vocabulary terms that shows the relationship between the vocabulary terms and a taxonomy which is a hierarchical list of terms. All terms in a controlled vocabulary should have an unambiguous, non-redundant definition.
Q: Why are there two taxonomy and thesaurus documents?
A: There are two documents because they serve different uses. An indexer uses a thesaurus to hone in on the narrowest appropriate terms that characterize the content of a document. Indexers take direction from the term relationships to investigate related ideas and see if they apply in characterizing the document. A thesaurus is more suited to situations where decision processes are involved. A taxonomy is usually used in cases where lists of acceptable terms are needed.
Q: Are the two documents different views of the same information, and are they consistent?
A: Yes, the Taxonomy is the first three 'layers' under each term family (the top-most term).  The IEEE Taxonomy is defined in this way so that it is always a subset of the IEEE Thesaurus. The Taxonomy will be used as part of the IEEE Product Hub and as the keyword List supplied to authors to characterize their own articles as well as other cases where an official IEEE list of words is needed.
Q: What is a taxonomy?
A: A taxonomy is different from a thesaurus. A taxonomy is a strict hierarchical list of terms so all related terms and cross references are gone. Only directly related terms are displayed. In other words, the taxonomy is a collection of controlled vocabulary terms organized into a hierarchical structure. Each term in a taxonomy is in one or more parent-child relationships to other terms in the taxonomy.
Q: What is an ontology?
A: An ontology is a controlled vocabulary expressed in an ontology representation language. This language has a grammar for using vocabulary terms to express something meaningful within a specified domain of interest. The grammar contains formal constraints (e.g., specifies what it means to be a well-formed statement, assertion, query, etc.) on how terms in the ontology’s controlled vocabulary can be used together.


2) How does the IEEE use the taxonomy and thesaurus?


Q: How does the subscriber find the right IP?
A: Subscribers use a search engine which accesses Xplore and CSDL full text papers and articles, along with meta-data to position the most relevant retrieved items at the top of the first page.
Q: What is in the papers' and articles’ metadata?
A: Metadata includes title, author's name, authors keywords, controlled indexing terms, uncontrolled indexing terms, periodical / conference title, etc. IDAM is the database of all Xplore content and metadata.
Q: How is manual indexing done?
A: IEEE matches each paper and article’s technical area to one hired university expert to read the paper and assign index terms from the controlled IEEE vocabulary.
Q: How is automatic indexing done?
A: IEEE uses widely known service INSPEC to read each paper and article for words and phrases that match keywords from the controlled IEEE vocabulary.
Q: What is the difference between indexing and tagging?
A: Tagging is the increasing popular method for readers to assign their own keywords (tags) regardless of the approved controlled vocabulary. Tagging has advantages that is free and can reveal old knowledge (e.g., Grid computing) with new relevance (e.g., Cloud Computing). Xplore does not allow readers to tag their content.
Q: Why does IEEE want their vocabulary documents expanded and brought up-to-date?
A: Accurate IEEE vocabulary documents are used to manually and automatically index every conference paper and periodical article so our customers can quickly search and find relevant information to download.
Q: Will the IEEE update the Xplore index using the IEEE Thesaurus frequently or only when a new Thesaurus version is published?
A: No, the existing two-million plus article records in the Xplore database will not be re-indexed as the IEEE vocabulary is updated. The indexing reflects the technology of its day (via the thesaurus used), which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it is a good practice every decade or two to go back and re-index the entire group of records.
Q: Will new articles added to Xplore use the most recent IEEE vocabulary?
A: Yes, the IEEE Thesaurus will be updated annually from the volunteer Thesaurus Editorial Board updates and suggestions to staff who will provide support and helpful comments. The updates would be voted upon by the Board, and staff will compile the next new updated Thesaurus. The IEEE Thesaurus should be updated annually to maintain its freshness and utility to the engineering community.


3) How can taxonomies and thesauri be used by a technical group or committee? How are they beneficial?

Q: How does a TC know IEEE vocabulary documents are sufficient for their field of interest?
A: Each TC can review the Thesaurus for any missing words in their field of interest. As the Thesaurus is a PDF document, you can directly search for terms. It is preferable to search for the term stem because “-ing,” “-ers,” and plural versions of terms might already exist or be found as non-preferred and link to preferred terms.
Q: Where is the expertise to update the IEEE vocabulary?
A: The technical committee has members who understand the scopes and themes in their technology. Many of these people sit on the sponsored Conference Program Committee and design the Call for Papers topics.
Q: Why should the technical committees get involved with the IEEE vocabulary?
A: Technical committees want to attract the most relevant authors to their sponsored conferences and related periodicals and they want their membership to find these papers and articles through the variety of search engines, which all use the papers and articles’ metadata. TC and their sponsored conferences’ vitality can be measured by the “usage” of their papers and articles, which is measured by the number of successful searches to find and download.
Q: How could the Thesaurus benefit the TC?
A: Connecting emerging conferences to the best fit TC for sponsorship, or connecting available grants to the best fit TC for their membership communications, or creating a TC network of authors with similar interests
Q: How does the Thesaurus and Taxonomy relate to the Body of Knowledge (BoK)?
A: The thesaurus and taxonomy should include all relevant terms for knowledge areas included in the BoK.
Q: How can the Thesaurus and Taxonomy be related to "core competencies"?
A: The thesaurus and taxonomy should include all relevant terms for knowledge areas in a TC's or a Society's Core Competencies.
Q: When I joined Computer Society, I clicked on my Technical Interest Profiles areas. Since then no one has invited me into their technical community. Why?
A: Currently Technical Interest Profiles (TIP) has a limited use. All forty Computer Society Technical Committees have their scope or field of interest on their individual web pages for you to read and select up to four and register in the TECA database. Caution some Scope statements lack precision so two or more might appear to have large overlaps. In the future we hope to share with you the Computer Society Taxonomy for you to follow down to the best fit technical community.
Q: What is the alternative to Xplore searches?
A: IEEE has Xplore for entire IEEE IP and Computer Society has CSDL for CS IP; technical communities could create their own “view” of related and relevant IP from both sets.
Q: How can an author find other authors to either co-author or to reference their work or to kibitz with them during the process of my research?
A: Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had a way to take the body of knowledge and create a topical ontology based on authors' expertise. For example - let's say that I'm considering writing a paper on Privacy Assessments - I could look at the ontology tree to find the scholars who have written about privacy assessments - and either co-author a paper with them (assuming contact info is provided) or minimally reference their work or kibitz with them during the process of my research. The actual ontology could be based on something like "Linkedin" 5 degrees or a true ontological tree/map. [Wayne Pauley]
Q: How does the Thesaurus and Taxonomy relate to the Ontology?
A: An ontology provides a more formal semantics. The grammar contains formal constraints (e.g., specifies what it means to be a well-formed statement, assertion, query, etc.) on how terms in the ontology’s controlled vocabulary can be used together.
Q: How could an Ontology benefit the TC?
A: As the Ontology is structured for computer software, a program could be designed to search through Xplore’s 2 million plus collection of conference papers and periodical articles to build the TC “digital library of their own body of knowledge.” TC experts could whittle the Ontology search results down to a minimum number for specific offers to their membership. Another benefit is authors could use an Ontology program to find the best match for conference and periodical submissions.
Q: How does Web 2.0 facilitate finding relevant knowledge:
A: The Web 2.0 paradigm is upon us. Users are gradually becoming the center for activities, resources and processes. It is more about sharing and communities and less about systems. People participate in community based portals, such as flickr, and youtube, and they decide for themselves what communities they want to take part in. The use of tags to markup content is one of the fundamental concepts in the Web 2.0 paradigm. Even if meta tagging has been used to describe and classify content for many years, only recently have users all over the web been using shared tags to build online interest based communities and to share content. [Clearing the skies: From tag clouds to topic maps by Stian Lavik]

4) How can I get involved?

Q: What needs to change?
A: Currently each TC has a scope for their technical domain consisting of a paragraph of simple sentences containing English words and some “buzz” words. These are found from the list of TC on Senior contributing TC members could team together to relate their technical domain to the list of existing controlled vocabulary in the IEEE Thesaurus and recommend additional controlled terms for addition. Next the relatationship between these TC specific controlled terms could be arranged as an addition to the IEEE Thesaurus. This addition could be submitted to the Computer Society representative to the IEEE Thesaurus Editorial Board for review and assimulation.
Q: Should the TC team working on a taxonomy/thesaurus fill in as much information as they can or is there a specific level of depth that is a good starting point?
A: Some groups work better with top-down categories while others go for a bottom-up approach. The top-down is easier but it may depend on the area of specialty or technology involved. Indexing and Database staff can take whatever the TC members provide and follow up with additional suggestions or note where the TC member suggestions are similar to existing entries.
Q: Which comes first: relating new terms to existing vocabulary or creating the taxonomy for a technical field of interest?
A: Please alert staff on which existing terms will have new relationships.
Q: Which Thesauri editorial tools and viewers do you recommend, if any?
A: ?
Q: Which tools, if any, should TCs use to help gather taxonomy terms?
A: ?


Related Thesaurus Links

IEEE 2009 Thesaurus and Taxonomy-Access requires Creative Commons acknowledgement

Stephanie White's Thesaurus Presentation