Taxonomies are our Friends

The terminology and differentiation between the words “taxonomy” and “controlled vocabulary”  and “thesaurus” has always been a bit hazy to me.  I remember reading articles back in LS500 that just threw the words around like they were easy to catch, and yes, I had the gist, but things were still a bit fuzzy.  They seemed so similar at times that I would get mixed up, which is why I found this article on taxonomies quite enlightening.

To start of with, there are different kinds of taxonomies, which seems basic but is actually something that you really should keep in mind.  And what exactly is a taxonomy, in a few words?  ”A taxonomy (plural: taxonomies) as a kind of controlled vocabulary that has a hierarchy.”  Simple enough, right?  She goes on to further say that “A taxonomy is thus either—or both—a hierarchical classification scheme and/or a controlled vocabulary.

The author then gives descriptions of different types of taxonomies.  For example, “if a controlled vocabulary is merely a list of concepts with their synonyms, and none of the synonyms is designated as the preferred term, it is called a synonym ring.”  She also describes a thesaurus, ontology, and faceted taxonomy, which are quite helpful.

Overall, taxonomies are our friends because they can greatly improve navigation and findability on websites, and produce better search results (for example, if the taxonomy has related the terms CAR and AUTOMOBILE as synonyms, the search results will be more inclusive).