Thesaurus (information retrieval)

In the context of information retrieval, a thesaurus (plural: "thesauri") is a form of controlled vocabulary that seeks to dictate semantic manifestations of metadata in the indexing of content objects. A thesaurus serves to minimise semantic ambiguity by ensuring uniformity and consistency in the storage and retrieval of the manifestations of content objects. ANSI/NISO Z39.19-2005 defines a content object as "any item that is to be described for inclusion in an information retrieval system, website, or other source of information". The thesaurus aids the assignment of preferred terms to convey semantic metadata associated with the content object.A thesaurus serves to guide both an indexer and a searcher in selecting the same preferred term or combination of preferred terms to represent a given subject. ISO 25964, the international standard for information retrieval thesauri, defines a thesaurus as a “controlled and structured vocabulary in which concepts are represented by terms, organized so that relationships between concepts are made explicit, and preferred terms are accompanied by lead-in entries for synonyms or quasi-synonyms.” A thesaurus is composed by at least three elements: 1-a list of words (or terms), 2-the relationship amongst the words (or terms), indicated by their hierarchical relative position (e.g. parent/broader term; child/narrower term, synonym, etc.), 3-a set of rules on how to use the thesaurus.


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