LIS 677 - Some questions and answers about the thesaurus construction project

Can I use articles from somewhere besides Western News?

Your thesaurus should be applicable to at least one or two articles from any issue of Western News. So you should look at some Western News articles to see the kind of material covered. Go ahead and examine similar articles from other sources as well if you wish. Among other things, this may help you to fill in gaps in your thesaurus and deal with topics that might be the subject of future Western News items.

Can I concentrate on just one kind of article?

Yes, provided at least one or two such articles appear in each issue of Western News. You may find concentrating on a single type of article, such as reports of research activities, makes it easier to identify a facet.

How is the term "facet" in this assignment related to the definitions I find in the literature?

(You don't actually need to know the answer to this question to do the assignment, but here is a brief explanation.)

In classification theory, "facet" is most commonly defined as something like "The whole group of divisions produced when a subject is divided according to a single characteristic". The facet question that you are asked for defines a characteristic of the document, usually of its subject matter, such as when the main action described took place. The terms in your thesaurus, when given as answers to the question, divide indexed items into divisions depending on which term or terms answer the facet question.

How many articles should I look at?

All your preferred terms need not come from articles that you actually looked at. Remember that you can use other sources, like existing thesauri, indexes, glossaries, and so on. On the other hand, you should look at enough articles to get a good idea of the kinds of preferred terms that would be useful. A rough minimum might be 50.

How many scope notes should I include?

You are not required to include a certain number of scope notes, but you should give a scope note wherever the meaning that you intend for a term is not obvious from the term itself. If you omit scope notes, I will try to evaluate your thesaurus as if your terms had their most obvious meanings.

If you include a scope note, make sure that it is suitably worded. Be especially careful that the scope note does really convey the scope that you intend for the term.

What about proper names?

Most thesauri, like the ERIC thesaurus, do not include proper names of people, organizations, and the like. Once you begin including proper names, you may find it difficult to know where to stop. If you do decide to include some proper names, first work out some clear rules for why you are doing so and which proper names are included.

Should I include terms from other facets?

No. Although in a full thesaurus you would probably include some "RT" links between terms in different facets, limit your microthesaurus terms to the single facet that you have defined.

Are we bound to the facet question we submitted already?

No, especially if the original question was problematic it is quite appropriate to choose another one. You can ask for feedback on that too.

Can we look at examples of previous students' thesauri?

Complete thesauri or major extracts are not available, since students from earlier offerings have not given permission for their material to be used. Some short examples of good and bad practices can be seen in the file 677theex.htm.

Do we have to use TheW32 for the project? Do we have to use thesaurus construction software at all?

If you would like to get experience with a commercial package, like TCS, or one that works on a Mac, like Cognatrix, you may certainly do so. Just check the TheW32 documentation to make sure that the report formats delivered by the package you choose match the formats specified for the project.

In theory, you should be able to do the project by hand, too. After all, that is how controlled vocabularies were created in the old days. More work is involved, however, and there are many more chances for errors. In practice, I have found that the few students in the past who have tried completing the thesaurus by hand have had a poor understanding of what was required and have tended to produce displays that were riddled with inconsistencies.

Can we submit the thesaurus in some other format, instead of the required alphabetic and hierarchical displays?

Credit will not be given for thesauri submitted in other formats. You may send me .the files before the project completion date if you think they will help me deal with technical questions that you may have; but it is still up to you to produce the required displays and include them in your report.
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Last updated September 26, 2007.
This page maintained by Prof. Tim Craven
E-mail (text/plain only): craven@uwo.ca
Faculty of Information and Media Studies
University of Western Ontario,
London, Ontario
Canada, N6A 5B7