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Here you'll find links to guidance on getting started with vocabulary creation using good practice.  Contact to suggest additions.   (URIs checked 22/03/2021)

Content developed for this page was originally an output of an AVSIG working group comprising Rowan Brownlee and Les Kneebone.

Introducing vocabularies.  What are they and how are they used? 

Introduction to vocabulariesURL

Presentation to the September 2016 AVSIG meeting, from Nick Car.

Controlled Vocabularies and SKOSURLFrom DARIAH Campus, an overview of vocabularies, use within the Digital Humanities, SKOS encoding, and exercises.


How to design a vocabulary 

The Accidental TaxonomistURL
  • A guide to building information taxonomies
  • "Drawing on numerous real-world examples, Hedden explains how to create terms and relationships, select taxonomy management software, design taxonomies for human versus automated indexing, manage enterprise taxonomy projects, and adapt taxonomies to various user interfaces"
  • Published 2016
Construction of Controlled Vocabularies. A PrimerURL
  • Based on ANSI/NISO Z39.19-2005. Topics include principles of controlled vocabularies, their structure, semantic relations, and display.
  • Published 2015
Essential Thesaurus ConstructionURL
  • "This practical text examines the criteria relevant to the selection of a subject management system, describes the characteristics of some common types of subject tool, and takes the novice step-by-step through the process of creating a system for a specialist environment. The methodology employed is a standard technique for the building of a thesaurus that incidentally creates a compatible classification or taxonomy, both of which may be used in a variety of ways for document or information management."
  • Published 2006
Organising knowledge : taxonomies, knowledge and organisational effectivenessURL
  • "Taxonomies are often thought to play a niche role within content-oriented knowledge management projects. They are thought to be ‘nice to have’ but not essential. In this ground-breaking book, Patrick Lambe shows how they play an integral role in helping organizations coordinate and communicate effectively. Through a series of case studies, he demonstrates the range of ways in which taxonomies can help organizations to leverage and articulate their knowledge. A step-by-step guide in the book to running a taxonomy project is full of practical advice for knowledge managers and business owners alike."
  • Published 2007
The Taxobook. Part 2. Principles and practices of building taxonomiesURL
  • "This book outlines the basic principles of creation and maintenance of taxonomies and thesauri. It also provides step by step instructions for building a taxonomy or thesaurus and discusses the various ways to get started on a taxonomy construction project."
  • Published 2014
Ten Simple Rules for making a vocabulary FAIRURL
  • "The 10 Simple Rules below describe how to convert that legacy vocabulary into a form enabling metadata and data annotation, using applicable standards, and also compatible with, and thus potentially able to be integrated with, related FAIR vocabularies.. Some of the rules refer explicitly to the main FAIR principles, while others are basic vocabulary prerequisites."
Thesaurus construction and use : a practical manualURL
  • "A practical guide to the construction of thesauri for use in information retrieval, written by leading experts in the field. Includes: planning and design; vocabulary control; specificity and compound terms; structure and relationships; auxiliary retrieval devices; multilingual thesauri; AAT Compound Term Rules. The US ANSI/NISO Z39.19 Thesaurus construction standard is also covered."
  • Published 2000
Thesaurus construction guidelines: An introduction to thesauri and guidelines on their constructionURL
  • "This guide was constructed as part of MoTIF (Mo Thesaurus of Irish Folklore), a collaborative project led by the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) and the National Library of Ireland (NLI). One of the project aims was to produce guidelines on the construction of thesauri for librarians, archivists, museum professionals and other information professionals. The guidelines are contained in this document and are accompanied by a pilot thesaurus of Irish folklore."
  • Published 2014
Thesaurus construction. Introductory tutorialURL
  • "The purpose of this module is to teach you the basics of constructing an information retrieval thesaurus."
  • Topics include an introduction to to thesauri, selection of terms, and semantic relations.
  • Last updated 2008


How to encode or implement a vocabulary

Free taxonomy management softwareURL
  • 2016 blog posting from the author of "The Accidental Taxonomist" describes TemaTres, ThManager, VocBench and Protoge
Software for building and editing thesauriURL
  • Listings provided by Taxobank (hosted by Access Innovations). Latest update appears from 2013.
Taxonomy management softwareURL
  • Listings provided by Taxonomy Warehouse (hosted by Synaptica)
Linked Data Patterns: A pattern catalogue for modelling, publishing, and consuming Linked DataURL
  • "This book attempts to add to the steadily growing canon of reference documentation relating to Linked Data. Linked Data is a means of publishing "web-native" data using standards like HTTP, URIs and RDF. The book adopts a tried and tested means of communicating knowledge and experience in software development: the design pattern. The book is organized as a pattern catalogue that covers a range of different areas from the design of web scale identifiers through to application development patterns. The intent is to create a ready reference that will be useful for both the beginner and the experienced practioner alike. It's also intended to grow and mature in line with the practitioner community"
  • Last updated 2012
Linked Data: Evolving the Web into a Global Data SpaceURL
  • "This book gives an overview of the principles of Linked Data as well as the Web of Data that has emerged through the application of these principles. The book discusses patterns for publishing Linked Data, describes deployed Linked Data applications and examines their architecture."
  • Reference: Tom Heath and Christian Bizer, Linked Data: Evolving the Web into a Global Data Space, 1st edition, 2011. Synthesis Lectures on the Semantic Web: Theory and Technology, 1:1, 1-136. Morgan & Claypool.
  • Published 2011


Introduction to SKOS

Introduction to SKOS. Using SKOS to formalise vocabulariesURL
  • Presentation to the March 2017 AVSIG meeting, from Simon Cox
SKOS (Simple Knowledge Organization System)URL
  • "Introduces the various features of SKOS, illustrating how they can be used to represent existing KOS data. Presents how the vision of leveraging existing KOS on the web of data is being adopted in a number of projects, in the Cultural Heritage sector and beyond. Discusses available tooling and methods for creating and publishing SKOS as well as porting legacy KOS data to SKOS"
  • Slides from DC-2011 conference tutorial
SKOS Simple Knowledge Organization System PrimerURL
  • "This document is an implementors guide for those who would like to represent their concept scheme using SKOS."
  • Published 2008
Key Choices in the Design of Simple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS)URL
  • "By reconstructing the discussion around alternative features and design options and presenting the rationale for design decisions, the paper aims at providing insight into how SKOS turned out as it did, and why."


How to discover if the vocabulary you want to create already exists

Basel Register of Thesauri, Ontologies & Classifications (BARTOC)URL
  • Vocabularies are categorised by subject and searchable by properties including language, type (e.g. classification, name authority) and format.
Compendium of VocabulariesURL
  • Maintained by CSIRO, the list is organised by categories including "general research", "earth and environment", "detailed science", and "general purpose".
Linked Open Vocabularies (LOV)URL
  • "LOV focuses on a subset of vocabularies for the description of RDF data. It does not include any Value Vocabularies such as SKOS thesaurus."
Research Vocabularies Australia (RVA)URL
  • Provided by the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC), the RVA discovery portal includes faceted search on subject, publisher, format, access method and license.
Taxonomy WarehouseURL
  • Alphabetic listing. Vocabulary descriptions include link to publisher.
  • Hosted by Synaptica
  • Please note: this link seems to fail in some web browsers


How to publish a vocabulary

Publishing controlled vocabularies for access and reuseURL
  • Presentation to the COAR Controlled Vocabularies Interest Group.
  • Published 2016
Research Vocabularies Australia (RVA)URL
  • Vocabulary service provided by the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC)
  • "Research Vocabularies Australia (RVA) makes it easy to find and use controlled vocabularies used in research. It also makes it possible for Australian research organisations to publish, re purpose, create, and manage their own controlled vocabularies."
  • "SISSVoc is a Linked Data API for accessing published vocabularies. SISSVoc provides a RESTful interface via a set of URI patterns that are aligned with SKOS. "
  • Users include AuScope and ARDC
  • Open source SKOS browsing and publishing tool.
  • Users include finto and FAO
  • Open source "read-only web delivery system for Simple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS)-formulated RDF vocabularies."
  • Users include Geoscience Australia (GA) and Geological Survey Queensland (GSQ)
  • Open source "Python web application to serve SKOS-encoded vocabularies as Linked Data."
  • Users include TERN (Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network)


Training materials

Practical taxonomy creationURL
  • 3 part recorded webinar series sponsored by the American Society for Indexing and presented by the author of "The Accidental Taxonomist"
  • "Practical Taxonomy Creation is aimed at beginners or others seeking practical training. Whether you are new to taxonomies or are familiar with taxonomies in theory but have minimal experience, this course is for you."
  • Topics include taxonomy types, gathering terms, and taxonomy management software.
Taxonomies and Controlled Vocabularies. Self-Paced Online CourseURL
  • 5 self-paced online modules, from the author of "The Accidental Taxonomist"
  • "This course provides both a basic introduction to taxonomies, discusses best practices for creating terms and relationships, and provides some practice to start working on taxonomies and thesauri."
  • Topics include an introduction to taxonomies, hierarchical relationships, and deciding how to name taxonomy terms. 
Taxonomy and MetadataURL
  • Provided by the Association for Information and Image Management (aiim)
  • "Students can go at their own pace and have six months to complete the course and take the final exam to earn their Taxonomy and Metadata Specialist certificate."
  • Topics include scoping a taxonomy project, understanding design principles, deciding whether to create or adopt, facet analysis.



ANSI/NISO Z39.19-2005 (R2010) Guidelines for the Construction, Format, and Management of Monolingual Controlled VocabulariesURL
  • "Presents guidelines and conventions for the contents, display, construction, testing, maintenance, and management of monolingual controlled vocabularies. It focuses on controlled vocabularies that are used for the representation of content objects in knowledge organization systems including lists, synonym rings, taxonomies, and thesauri."
  • Published 2010
ISO 25964 – the international standard for thesauri and interoperability with other vocabulariesURL
  • "Part 1 of the standard, published in 2011, covers all aspects of developing a thesaurus, monolingual or multilingual. It has replaced the previous standards ISO 2788 and ISO 5964."
  • "Part 2 of the standard ... main aim is to encourage high quality information retrieval across networked resources that have been indexed with different vocabularies. It explains how to set up mappings between the concepts in such vocabularies, and other forms of complementary use."
  • Published 2011 & 2013


Consultation and support

Taxonomists and controlled vocabulary editorsURL
  • Listings provided by the Taxonomies and Controlled Vocabularies Special Interest Group of the American Society for Indexing
Taxonomy design and construction consultingURL
  • Listings provided by Taxonomy Warehouse (hosted by Synaptica)
Taxonomy and metadata consultantsURL
  • A list of consultants from The DAM Directory, "a vendor-neutral collection of curated resources on topics related to the multidisciplinary practice of digital asset management (DAM)."
Taxonomy and metadata listingsURL
  • Consultancy listings from the Association of Information and Image Management (aiim). Listings are part of the aiim Buyers' Guide.

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