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The UNESCO Thesaurus : 

The UNESCO Thesaurus Meeting for Managers of UNESCO Documentation Networks Meron Ewketu UNESCO Library June 8 2005

Definition and function of a thesaurus: 

Definition and function of a thesaurus What is it? A hierarchically structured and controlled list of terms used for indexing and retrieving information in UNESCO’S fields of competence. The UNESCO Thesaurus is used by the UNESCO library to catalog its holdings and in collective cataloging projects with field offices, by outside organizations such as the UK Records Office, and in several integrated library management systems.

Definition and function of a thesaurus (2): 

Definition and function of a thesaurus (2) Why do we need it? Language is rich and varied and in constant evolution So many terms to denote the same concept drugs vs. medicines, indigenous populations vs. natives, Gypsies vs. Roma, Myanmar vs. Burma Need to use a controlled vocabulary in order to avoid loss of information arising from the ambiguity of natural language: The UNESCO Thesaurus


Characteristics Multidisciplinary: It covers the major fields of knowledge that constitute the scope of UNESCO. It also includes the names of countries and groupings of countries. It contains 7,000 terms in English, 8,600 terms in French and 6,800 in Spanish Multilingual: Available in English, French and Spanish…and very soon in Russian Structured according to the ISO standards 2788 and 5964

Historical background: 

Historical background The 1st edition of the UNESCO thesaurus was released in 1977 The 2nd updated, revised and restructured edition was released in 1995 The online version on web Isis was released in 2000 in English, followed by the French and Spanish version in 2003 and 2004 respectively

Thesaurus structure: 

Thesaurus structure Terms Term relationships Equivalence relationship (USE/UF) Hierarchical relationship (BT/NT) Associative relationship (RT/RT) And Scope notes (SN) Some descriptors are accompanied by a SN to explain their meaning or delimit their intended use


Equivalence relationships (synonyms/ near-synonyms): Use / Used for (UF) Non preferred terms serve as entry points, connecting the terms that users have in mind, e.g. Green tourism with the preferred term, or descriptor applied by the indexer, i.e. Ecotourism


Hierarchical relationships: Broader term (BT) / Narrower term (NT) Helps users to better define, expand or focus their search by selecting more specific or generic descriptors


Associative relationships (non-hierarchical): Related terms (RT) Invites the user to also consider other terms which are closely related to what he is looking for. Users interested in the keyword rights of the child might also be interested in child labour, etc.


Scope notes (SN) The SN specifies what the descriptor covers and excludes other possible meanings

The main purpose of the thesaurus is: 

The main purpose of the thesaurus is Helping indexers choose the appropriate keywords when describing subject content of documents Helping users identify the most appropriate keywords with which to search and retrieve pertinent information from the online catalogue Thus allowing indexers and users to "speak the same language" and bridging the gap between documents and users.


Indexing The indexer will extract the concepts contained in the document and translate these into descriptors from the UNESCO thesaurus The concept of “scientific diasporas” can thus be rendered with the descriptors “brain drain” and “scientists”…

Searching the online catalogue Unesbib/unesdoc: 

Searching the online catalogue Unesbib/unesdoc Then the searcher refering to the same thesaurus selects appropriate keywords and formulates his query in the online catalogue

Advantages of using the thesaurus: 

Advantages of using the thesaurus Consistency in indexing Different information providers, or indexers use the same terms to describe the same concept Cross language information retrieval in searching Allows users to input query in one language, language in which one is conversant, and retrieve documents written in another language Regularly updated Follows closely the evolution of the terminology in international development organizations and in particular, in UNESCO’s field of competence

Thesaurus: further developments: 

Thesaurus: further developments Translation of the thesaurus into Russian (in progress) New search possibility: searching the UNESCO online catalogue via the thesaurus (in progress) Integration of the thesaurus in the UNESCO web content management system (Symplify)

Access to the UNESCO Thesaurus: 

Access to the UNESCO Thesaurus Offline Print edition: UNESCO Thesaurus, 1995 (now out of print) CD-ROM: UNESCO Thesaurus, 2004 (published every year) Online

Questions? Comments? Suggestions…: 

Questions? Comments? Suggestions… Meron Ewketu Patrick Huby Technical contact

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