Section 3
Modifying and Inventing Terms

Standardizing the Form of Words

Terms collected should already be nouns or noun phrases. Here are some further guidelines for the form that terms should take in your final thesaurus.
Guidelines Examples
Plural for things that can be counted "TUBES"
Singular for "mass" nouns "WOOD"
Singular for processes, properties, and conditions "REFRIGERATION"
"WEIGHT",
"POVERTY"
Not inverted "RADAR ANTENNAS"
(rather than "ANTENNAS, RADAR")
Excluding prepositions "CARBOHYDRATE METABOLISM"
(rather than "METABOLISM OF CARBOHYDRATES")
Excluding punctuation marks, diacritics, special characters, and abbreviations "COOPERATIVE PROGRAMS"
(rather than "CO-OPERATIVE PROGRAMS" or "COÖPERATIVE PROGRAMS")
"MUSICAL NOTES"
(rather than "(MUSICAL) NOTES" or "MUS. NOTES"

quiz Quiz on term form (requires JavaScript)

What to Do with Terms with More Than One Meaning

A homograph is an expression that has the same spelling as another expression, but a different meaning. A thesaurus needs to distinguish between homographs.

A unique term may be created out of a homograph by adding a parenthetical qualifier; for example, "PORT (WINE)".

You may note that including parentheses is contrary to the guideline given above; namely, to avoid punctuation. A unique term may also be created out of a homograph by adding another word without punctuation; for example, "PORT WINE".

Introducing New Terms

In addition to terms extracted from your various sources, you may sometimes choose to introduce new terms of your own.

For example,

  1. broad concept terms
  2. structural terms
  3. terms for nontextual material

Broad Concept Terms

Terms that represent broad concepts may be introduced because they are useful in broad searches.

For example, "TRAFFIC STATIONS", because it can be used to replace a search for "AIRPORTS OR BUS TERMINALS OR TRAIN STATIONS OR HELIPORTS OR...".

Structural Terms

Terms may also be introduced because they help to clarity the structure of semantic relations.

For example, "EMPLOYMENT OF SPECIFIC GROUPS" to clarify the relationship between "EMPLOYMENT" and "YOUTH EMPLOYMENT".

Terms for Nontextual Material

If you are constructing a thesaurus for indexing material which is not in the form of text, you have fewer sources for terms. You may therefore find yourself inventing your own terms more.

For example, this picture shows things that are not referred to in the caption, including a bottle. After examining the picture, you might decide to add "BOTTLES" to your list of terms.


Section 2 Section 4 Table of Contents Glossary
Last updated January 25, 2008, by Tim Craven
Copyright © 1997 The University of Western Ontario