Specialties: Web Sites
and Controlled Vocabularies
Taxonomy Types and Definitions
In business use, the single word "taxonomy" may cover any and
all of the following variations of knowledge organization systems.
A controlled vocabulary is a restricted list of words or terms used
for labeling, indexing or categorizing. It is controlled because only
terms from the list may be used for the subject area covered by the
controlled vocabulary. It is also controlled because, if it used by
more than one person, there is control over who adds terms to the list,
when, and how to the list. The list could grow, but only under defined
policies. Most controlled vocabularies also have some form of cross-references
pointing from one or more “non-preferred” terms to the designated
“preferred” term. Only if a controlled vocabulary is very
small and easily browsed, such as on a single page, might such synonyms
A thesaurus is a more structured kind of controlled vocabulary. It provides
information about each term and its relationships to other terms within
the same thesaurus. In addition to clearly specifying which terms can
be used as synonyms (called “used from”), a thesaurus also
indicates which terms are more specific (narrower terms), which are
broader, and which are related terms. National and international standards
have been developed to provide guidance on creating such thesauri, including
ISO 2788, ISO 5964, ANSI/NISO Z39.19. The standards explain in great
detail the types of relationships that fall into three types: hierarchical
(Broader Term/Narrower Term), associative (Related Term), and equivalence
A literature retrieval thesaurus, like a dictionary-thesaurus (such
as Roget's) lists similar terms at each controlled vocabulary term entry.
The difference is that in a dictionary-thesaurus all the associated
terms might be used in place of the term entry depending upon the specific
context, which the user needs to consider in each case. But in certain
contexts some of these terms are not appropriate. The literature retrieval
thesaurus, on the other hand, is designed to be used for all contexts,
regardless of a specific term usage or document. The synonyms or near
synonyms must therefore be suitably equivalent in all circumstances.
The word taxonomy means the science of classifying things, and traditionally
the classification of plants and animals, as in the Linnaean classification
system. It has become a popular term now for any hierarchical classification
or categorization system. Thus, we no longer speak of “taxonomy”
as a science but rather “a taxonomy” (plural: taxonomies)
as a kind of controlled vocabulary that has a hierarchy (broader term/narrower
terms), but not necessarily the related-term relationships and other
features of a standard thesaurus.
Unlike a thesaurus, where a given term may or may not have broader
or narrower terms, in a taxonomy all terms belong to a single, large
hierarchy that encompasses all concepts of a certain class, category,
or facet. The structure is sometimes referred to as a “tree”
and the terms as “nodes” in the tree. Sometimes "a
taxonomy" refers to a single hierarchical tree, and sometime "a
taxonomy" means the collection of term hierarchies available in
combination for searching or browsing a given content repository.
A variation on the form of a collection of hierarchies is a faceted
taxonomy. Each facet is its own hierarchy of terms, but actually the
terms within a facet do not have to be in a hierarchy and may be a flat
list under the facet category label. What distinguishes facets is that
the user may select multiple terms, one from each facet, in combination
to execute a complex search. Furthermore, facets must represent different
aspects or dimensions of a query such as location, topic, source, type,
An ontology is set of concepts with attributes and relationships between
the various concepts that contain various meanings, all to define a
domain of knowledge, and is expressed in a format that is machine-readable.
Certain applications of ontologies, as used in artificial intelligence
or biomedical informatics, may define a domain of knowledge through
terms and relationships as the end goal, rather than being used for
any tagging. In the area of taxonomies and information science, however,
an ontology can be seen as a more complex type of thesaurus, in which
instead of having simply "related term" relationships, there
are various customized relationship pairs that contain specific meaning,
such as "owns" and a reciprocal "is owned by."
Past Taxonomy Projects
Heather Hedden has engaged in the following projects during 2004 - 2013:
- Recruited and coordinated the work of four freelance taxonomists
in developing multiple information technology (IT) taxonomies for the
purpose of autoclassifying technical articles.
- Consulted on the development of taxonomy guidelines.
- Developed a new faceted taxonomy from scratch for web content management
for implementation in Adobe Experience Manager for public websites of
hotels and hotel franchisee intranet.
KAPS Group, LLC
- Developed and refined topical taxonomies in economic, financial and
social development subjects to be used in new knowledge management portal
for the retrieval of research and project reports.
- Developed taxonomies for 8 world languages and language methods, based
on textbook tables of contents for Pearson Education’s higher
education digitized content project.
- Developed a medical terminology taxonomy based on comparative textbook
content for the publisher F.A. Davis to manage digital content.
Project Performance Corporation
- For a major multinational investment banking and securities firm,
designed a new faceted taxonomy structure for classifying documents
required for new client onboarding. Interviewed stakeholders, developed
taxonomy terms, mapped legacy codes to the new taxonomy, and wrote taxonomy
- For a mutual fund company, designed a new faceted taxonomy to support
search refinement of enterprise-wide internal documents that were being
migrated from shared drives to a new SharePoint-based intranet. Interviewed
stakeholders, designed facets, developed taxonomy terms for the initial
project of legal department documents, created keyword “clues”
for terms to support automated indexing with ConceptSearching.
- For an investment company (mutual funds and retirement planning),
reviewed the proposed new taxonomy structure and made recommendations.
- For a leading national retailer, revised the top two levels of product
categories taxonomy to reflect product category changes and absorb new
product areas, developed the taxonomy maintenance processes, and for
7 months responded to requests for additions and changes to the product
- For an athletic wear company, developed new hierarchical sports taxonomy
as part of the Unified Taxonomy with general and sports-specific vocabulary
for content indexing. Interviewed stakeholders, researched terms, and
built taxonomy in Excel and MultiTes.
- For a leading international educational publisher, developed subject
discipline taxonomies based on comparing and analyzing the detailed
tables of contents in multiple textbooks for multiple courses.
Earley and Associates
- For the Inter-American Development Bank, took
interview notes, conducted content repository analysis, designed new
set of taxonomy facets, and mapped legacy terms to new terms for multiple
taxonomy implementations project and publication resources. (See
example of Projects taxonomy.)
- For the research organization Westat, designed
an ontology for indexing research reports for implementation in the
Smartlogic Semaphore Ontology Manager tool.
- For Jackson Laboratory, took interview notes,
conducted content repository analysis, and created an initial taxonomy
for the web site and intranet of this biomedical research organization.
- For Motorola, conducted term extraction and
content analysis of its web site to support taxonomy development.
- For a financial services company, created a
starter taxonomy for the life goals section of a corporate intranet.
- For the public web sites of a major insurance company, conducted term
extraction and content analysis to support taxonomy
- For the intranet of a large manufacturing company,
conducted term extraction and content analysis to support taxonomy development.
Bain & Company
- Reviewed the multi-faceted hierarchical taxonomy for usability and
how it conforms with best practices. Analyzed retrieval statistics for
taxonomy terms. Wrote recommendations for how to improve the taxonomy,
and delivered visual presentation of recommendations to stakeholders.
- Developed base taxonomies (totaling 1,464 node terms) in Geographies,
Actions/Events, Occupations & Roles, Cultures & Languages, and
Facilities & Infrastructure; and vertical market taxonomies (totaling
1,643 node terms) in Business & Finance, Politics & Government,
Military & Defense, Terrorism, and Information Security; along with
multiple synonyms/cross-references for each node term. (See
- Edited categories of questions & answers in areas of Recreation
& Sports, Electronics, Finance, Legal, Business & Careers, Animals,
Pets, and Internet, by merging categories, breaking out subcategories,
and renaming categories, ensuring that categories had neither too many
questions to them nor were they more than three levels deep in the hierarchy.
Re-categorized questions & answers in the newly created categories.
- Redesigned and integrated legacy web site taxonomies for content searching
of the “50 Lessons” database of executive interview videos.
Specified metadata for search and retrieval of video lessons and of
speakers and wrote tagging guidelines. (See the
Lesson Theme categories)
(Dow Jones & Reuters)
- Mapped thousands of logged search phrases to the controlled vocabulary
of a Web commercial products and services directory (Superpages.com).
- Reviewed and edited hierarchical taxonomy in home and garden categories
for consumer products and services for Web-based yellow pages directory.
Created more narrower terms to expand the depth of select subject areas.
- Edited controlled vocabulary of products and services for web-based
Ministry of Education of Saudi Arabia (through the consulting company
- Provided expert review and comments to the taxonomy design plan: "Enjaz
Office Management & Content Management ENJAZ Project: Content Analysis
and Design Document"