LIS 677 - Weekly assignments and preparation


Reports and prepostings are due by 9 am on Wednesdays. Comments should be submitted by the end of the day on Thursdays. For more details on postings, see LIS 677 - Discussions online.

You should submit only 7 of the weekly reports.

The assignments from January 16-17 through March 5-6 will, in various degrees, prepare you to do the final thesaurus construction project.

Other assignments, by contrast, tend to complement the final thesaurus construction project by providing insight into other aspects of subject analysis.

January 9-10 - Introduction

Comment: briefly introduce yourself. What is your background in relation to indexing, thesauri, abstracting, online searching, or database management, as a user, student, or practitioner? Also, what is your answer to one of the following questions?

January 16-17 - Book indexing

Preparation: Find a nonfiction book that is of interest to you and that does not presently have an index. Start trying to index it. Record your efforts.
Report: Give the title of your book. List the types of decision you found you had to make in your attempt at indexing. Give examples or submit your notes with annotations. Suggest general principles that could govern decision-making both in this indexing task and in indexing in general.

Preposting: give the title of the book you started to index. How did you find it? Why do you think it did not have an index? What was one of the decisions that you had to make? What principle of indexing might help with that kind of decision?
Comment: comment on a point raised by one other student.

January 23-24 - Illustrating terms

Preparation: Study the definitions in the file 677def.htm.
Report: Give clear illustrations of two of the definitions in section A. Include any explanation needed to link features of your illustrations to the definitions. Do the same for three of the definitions in section B.

Preposting: Post an illustration of one of the terms. This may take the form of a link to an image on the Web.
Comment: What parts of a journal article do you think would be most useful in determining the article's subject?

January 30-31 - ERIC indexing

Preparation: Look at 2 of the articles listed in the file 677eri.htm. Without looking at how the documents have been indexed, index them yourself using a recent edition of the ERIC thesaurus. Then compare the indexer's results in the file 677erian.htm.
Report: Identify the 2 documents. For each, indicate what you thought it was about, what ERIC descriptors (major and minor) you assigned to it, which of these, if any, turned out to be illegal (not permitted by the ERIC thesaurus), and what descriptors were assigned to it by the indexer. For each of the 2 documents, note good and bad points about your choices and those of the indexer. (About 500 words apart from the lists of descriptors.)

Preposting: Comment on the way the ERIC indexer and you treated one aspect of the subject of one of the documents.
Comment: Apart from Western News itself, what sources of terms do you think would be useful for the course project?

February 6-7 - Extracting terms

Preparation: Select a text in ASCII format (you may use a series of related texts concatenated into a single file). Use ExtPhr32 to extract frequently occurring words and phrases.
Report: Describe briefly the source text used. List about 15 extracted words and phrases. For each, comment on its usefulness (1) as an index term for the source text as a whole, and (2) as a term for inclusion in a thesaurus to be used to index similar texts. Would adjustments to the stoplist or to the threshold that you employed have improved the results?


Preposting: Describe briefly the source text you used. For one of the extracted words or phrases, comment on its usefulness as an index term for the source text and as a term for inclusion in a thesaurus.
Comment: Suggest one facet for the descriptions in the file 677fac03.htm. Give it a mnemonic name and a question about the document and list words or phrases in the descriptions that fit the facet. Your suggestion may be a new facet or a modification of someone else's suggestion.

February 13-14 - Facet analysis

Preparation: Study the item descriptions to be facet-analyzed in the file 677fac.htm and attempt to facet-analyze them.
Report: Suggest five possible facets by indicating for each a mnemonic name and the general question about the item indexed that the facet answers. Indicate which of the words/phrases in each description belong to each of your five facets (this may be done by marking up a copy of the file).

Preposting: Comment on a particular difficulty that might be experienced in facet analyzing the specific set of descriptions.
Comment: Note one problem with the tentative facet analysis in the file 677facan.htm when it is posted.

February 20-21 - Equivalent terms

Preparation: Study the sets of equivalent terms in the file 677equ.htm. Think about what other terms might be added to the sets, and about which term should be the preferred term for each set and why.
Report: For one of the equivalent-term sets of your choice, indicate one additional equivalent term and your preferred term. Discuss in some detail (about 500 words) the pros and cons of your preferred-term choice.


Preposting: Without looking at what other students have done, list your preferred-term choices for all ten items.
Comment: Have your preferred-term choices for any of the ten items changed after looking at other students' choices? Why or why not?

March 5-6 - Semantic relations

Preparation: Review the definitions of the symbols BT, NT, RT, and SN; you may also want to look at sections 5-7 of the thesaurus construction tutorial. Do the thesaurus-construction exercise in the file 677sem.htm using the form illustrated in the example; use all four symbols. In determining BT/NT relations, use only genus/species and hierarchical whole/part.
Report: Submit your hierarchical display for the thesaurus-construction exercise, the corresponding alphabetical display, and a list of any sources used.


Preposting: Comment on a good or bad point of TheW32 or any other thesaurus construction software with which you have experience.
Comment: Note a problem with the suggested answer to the exercise in the file 677seman.htm when it is posted, or a way in which it would be incorrect if one or more definitions were changed.

March 12-13 - Free-text versus controlled vocabulary searching

Preparation: Select a Dialog database that includes abstract and descriptor fields and a thesaurus. Devise a suitable query for the database. Perform two searches for relevant items, with one search restricted to free-text fields (title, abstract, full text if available) and the other restricted to the descriptor field. The search strategies may or may not involve Boolean or proximity operators. For each of the searches, capture 5 records (or all the records in the retrieved set if it contains 5 or fewer records); use a format that includes abstracts (e.g., format 5). Note any precision failures and consider possible recall failures in each search. You may wish to iterate the searches to find some of the latter.
Report: Submit your search results for your two original searches. Include the query, the two search strategies, and the captured records for each strategy. In about 500 words, note any precision failures and discuss differences in performance, both precision and recall, between the two approaches - controlled versus uncontrolled vocabulary.

Preposting: Post your query, the two search strategies, and the proportion of the records printed for each that were relevant.
Comment: Comment on the search strategies posted by one other student.
Reminder: Your preliminary facet question for the course project should reach the instructor by March 12.

March 19-20 - Indexing HTML files

Preparation: Find 10 HTML files with related subject matter. Use XRefHT32 to extract titles and any targets (named anchors) and metatagged keywords. Using the indexing window of XRefHT32, assign 1-3 index terms to each file; convert the results to an HTML index.
Report: Give the URL and title for each of the 10 files; append a brief annotation if the title is insufficiently specific or accurate. Comment on the usefulness of titles and any targets and metatagged keywords (and, if you wish, headings) in suggesting suitable index terms. If titles or targets were not found, discuss whether they should have been present. (Maximum 500 words of discussion.) (The grade for your report will also be based partly on the quality of your posted index.)

Preposting: Upload your HTML index to the "Student Uploads" document library on the course SharePoint site, using your name as the filename.
Comment: Comment briefly on the index uploaded by one other student.

March 26-27 - SKY Index

Preparation: Use SKY Index Professional Demo to generate a printable index to the descriptions in the file 677sky.htm, changing wording as appropriate while maintaining the essential subjects.
Report: Submit your index in word processor format (e.g., RTF for WordPad/write.exe). In about 500 words, note its good and bad features. Take explicit account of the criteria of predictability, collocation, clarity, succinctness, and eliminability. At the same time, consider how the index entries would fit into a cumulative index to items on similar topics.

Preposting: Comment on a good or bad feature (or lack of a feature) of SKY Index.
Comment: Comment on some aspect of the sample NEPHIS index in the file 677nepan.htm when posted.

April 2-3 - Abstracting

Preparation: Prepare an abstract of the article 677abs.htm (in the "Shared Documents" document library on the SharePoint site). Follow the ANSI/NISO standard for abstracts as summarized in the file 677absin.htm.
Report: Submit your abstract. Indicate briefly where the abstract is indicative and where it is informative, according to the definitions in 677absin.htm.

Preposting: What are the key concepts in this article that should be covered by any abstract?
Comment: Comment on two of the article abstracts in the file 677absan.htm when posted.

April 9-10 - Indexing or abstracting product evaluation

Preparation: Select either an index or other product of indexing or an abstract journal or other collection of abstracts, either in printed form or online or ondisk, that is of interest to you and to which you have access. Selectively examine the quality of either the indexing or the abstracting.
Report: Write a report of about 1000 words on the type and quality of either indexing or abstracting found in the product you examined. Include examples. Point out problems and good ideas.

Preposting: Briefly comment on an interesting feature of an indexing or abstracting product that you have examined.
Comment: Make a brief original comment of your choice relating to one of the topics of the course.
Reminder: Final thesaurus project reports should be received by the instructor by 9 am on April 9.

Last updated September 26, 2007.
This page maintained by Prof. Tim Craven
E-mail (text/plain only):
Faculty of Information and Media Studies
University of Western Ontario,
London, Ontario
Canada, N6A 5B7