Interactive Virtual Taxonomy Workshops

Controlled Vocabularies and Taxonomies

Education series of four weekly interactive online/virtual sessions
Organizer: Henry Stewart Events
Dates: Wednesdays, February 28, March 6, 13, and 27, 2024
Time: 8:00 – 9:15 am PST / 11:00 am – 12:15 pm EST / 16:00 – 17:15 GMT / 17:00 – 18:15 CET
Format: interactive GoToWebinar meeting of lecture and Q&A
Price: $499 (includes access to slides and recordings)
Course website link and registration


Controlled vocabularies and taxonomies are essential for optimizing the efficacy of metadata, the nuances of which are not so widely understood. Controlled vocabularies are the values that populate many metadata properties. Determining which properties should have controlled rather than uncontrolled terms, and how term lists should be designed and controlled are important parts of metadata management. Controlled vocabularies provide metadata governance, but they do need to be governed.

Taxonomies determine how controlled vocabularies are structured in a hierarchy. Hierarchies may seem intuitive, but there are challenges in selecting the optimum choice. This course covers both the challenges and potential solutions. Standards and best practices do exist, but there is a difference between taxonomy creation guidelines and rules.

This course provides guidance on when, why and how to design a taxonomy, its term relations, and its term labels. It also addresses the question ‘Where does AI fit into what should be done?’

This is a beginner/intermediate course for content managers, digital asset managers, and others who are familiar with taxonomies and controlled vocabularies, as users, but have little experience in designing and creating them. Less time will be spent discussing taxonomy benefits and uses, and more time will be spent on how to create a good taxonomy.

Course Agenda

Session 1: Introduction to Metadata and Controlled Vocabularies and their Use

  • Definitions of metadata and controlled vocabularies
  • Types, examples, and uses of metadata, controlled vocabularies and taxonomies
  • Standards and models for metadata and controlled vocabularies
  • Tagging with controlled vocabularies
  • Categories vs. tags
  • Auto-tagging and AI

Session 2: Planning and Development of Controlled Vocabularies

  • Building vs. Buying a Taxonomy
  • Identifying Candidate Metadata and Vocabularies
  • Determining Controlled Vocabulary Types
  • Determining Metadata Rules and Governance

Session 3: Creating Taxonomy Terms and Relationships

  • Creating and wording of terms
  • Creating alternative labels/synonyms
  • Sources for terms
  • Creating taxonomy hierarchical relationships
  • Using generative AI for creating terms and relationships

Session 4: Taxonomy Design and Implementation

  • Hierarchical taxonomy design
  • Faceted taxonomy design
  • Combinations of controlled vocabularies and search, queries, and Semantic AI
  • Tools for taxonomies
  • Advanced taxonomy topics: multilingual taxonomies, linking taxonomies, ontologies (one slide each)

Registration link

Taxonomy Creation for Content Tagging

Education series of three weekly interactive online/virtual sessions
Format: Interactive Zoom meeting with lecture, exercises, and additional asynchronous Q&A
Organizer: Society for Technical Communication
Dates: Tuesdays, June 11, 18, and 15
Time: 1:00 – 2:30 pm PDT / 4:00 – 5:30 pm EDT / 21:00 – 22:30 BST
Price: $650, $350 for STC members (join STC for $240, for a total of $590), $280 for STC Gold members, $150 for STC student members (includes access to slides and recordings)
Course website link and registration


Content authors understand the importance of their electronic content being easily found when needed by their users, and they might assist in the process by tagging their content.  But are the tags sufficiently helpful? To support easy, comprehensive, and accurate search and retrieval of content tags should be based on controlled vocabularies or taxonomies. Creating simple taxonomies is not difficult, and most content or document management systems have built-in taxonomy management features, but creating good effective taxonomies requires understanding certain principles and best practices, which this 3-part workshop introduces. Technical communicators are often key stakeholders in the taxonomy creation process, and they could even take a leading role in taxonomy creation in the absence of a dedicated taxonomist.

Hands-on exercises include indicating the appropriate kind of controlled vocabulary, suitable alternative labels, and possible hierarchical relationships. A small group breakout session activity involves brainstorming a faceted taxonomy design.

Learning objectives and takeaways:

This three-week course aims to provide a solid understanding of taxonomies and other controlled vocabularies, their types, usage, and features. The principles of developing taxonomy concepts based on the content and user needs and creating appropriate relationships between concepts to guide users are the focus of the instruction. Participants should learn to follow taxonomy standards or best practices and implement a governance plan.

Attendees will learn:

  • The differences and benefits of different kinds of tagging and categorizing of content
  • What different kinds of controlled vocabularies there (taxonomy, thesaurus, classification scheme, term list, name authority) are and their suitability for different purposes.
  • From where and how to come up with the concepts (terms) in a taxonomy/controlled vocabulary, including content sources, search logs, and user input
  • Best practice for taxonomy concept labels (preferred and alternative) and the creation of hierarchical and associative relationships
  • Principles of published taxonomy standards
  • What to include in a governance plan that comprises both taxonomy maintenance guidelines and tagging policies
  • The role and capabilities of taxonomy management tools

Course Agenda

Week 1:

Taxonomy Usage

  • Introduction: Taxonomy as Categories and Tags; Taxonomies and Metadata
  • Tagging with a Taxonomy
  • Types of Taxonomies and Controlled Vocabularies

Week 2:

Taxonomy Creation

  • Sources for Taxonomy Concepts
  • Wording of Concept Labels; Preferred and Alternative Labels
  • Relationships between Taxonomy Concepts

Week 3:

Taxonomy Management

  • Taxonomy Standards
  • Taxonomy and Tagging Governance
  • Taxonomy Creation and Management Tools
Screen capture from video recording of “Taxonomy Creation for Content Tagging” taught in 2023.