What Is a Thesaurus? Why Is it Important to Your Business?

What is it?

A thesaurus is a collection of terms that represent important concepts to a business or organization. A thesaurus is a type of controlled vocabulary. Thesaurus terms are chosen carefully to be used over an extended period of time. Typically, many thesaurus terms are associated with an electronic file (such as a document, image file, or podcast) in a business’s collection. When a user searches for all items related to a concept or combination of concepts described by the thesaurus, the search engine easily finds them all. Thesaurus construction guidelines are published by national and international standards organizations.

Hierarchical Structure

Thesauri are arranged in tree-like structures called hierarchies. A hierarchical structure allows terms to be logically organized so users can easily browse the more general concepts, and can “drill down” from concepts of interest to find more specific concepts.

Equivalent Meanings

Thesauri also store additional information about each term in the collection. Perhaps most important when indexing items are the Non-Preferred terms (synonyms and near-synonyms) that may be used instead of the original thesaurus term. For example, the term “seminar” might also be described as a “workshop” or a “class.” Being able to reference other words with equivalent meanings makes it easier to find all items associated with a concept.

Related Terms

Terms in a thesaurus often are related to other terms that aren’t nearby in the hierarchy, so the thesaurus provides a way to record related terms. Related terms are often displayed on web pages that use the thesaurus as a navigational tool for the site’s content, helping users discover additional avenues for their search.

Why is it important to business?

  • Identifying the concepts represented in a knowledge collection assists an organization in identifying and defining its knowledge assets. These assets can be income-producing.
  • The thesaurus represents the range and depth of an electronic collection. As items are added or sections enhanced, terms are added to the thesaurus, making it richer and more specific.
  • The thesaurus can be used as a navigation tool allowing users to “drill down” to the concept they want to search. They can learn more about the subjects included as well.
  • A thesaurus enables employees, stakeholders, website visitors, and other users to effectively identify information that is useful to them. The more effective the search, the less frustrated (and more productive) the user!

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