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December 14, 2009

Pro's and con's of using a controlled (keyword) vocabulary

One of the many information resources that we need to standardize at the Biological Station is the list of index terms (i.e. keywords). In contemplating the creation of a controlled vocabulary for documenting data sets, bibliographic entries, study sites and research projects many decision points have arisen. Here is a summary.

Pro's of building a controlled vocabulary for indexing:

- Consistency within terminology can improve search ability. E.g., use of "forests" instead of "forest", "forests" instead of "trees", "carbon dioxide" instead of CO2

- Consistency across information resources. The same terminology will be used to describe data sets, bibliographic entries, study sites and research projects

- Incorporating external controlled vocabulary (LTER keywords) will facilitate integration of UMBS data resources with network-scale databases.

- Use of keyword auto-complete when creating metadata may yield use of more descriptive terms as compared to "top-of-the-head" categorization

- UMBS can make a contribution to the creation of a controlled vocabulary for use by other field stations and for ecology in general

Cons:

- Building a controlled vocabulary can be time consuming

- Potential that keyword lists will not adequately represent new research directions

- No guarantee that anonymous users will use correct terms

Posted by kkwaiser at December 14, 2009 01:00 PM

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