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What is EBSCO's Controlled Vocabulary?

EBSCO offers databases covering virtually every area of interest and study. In order to enable the most powerful searching of these databases, EBSCO has created a thesaurus of terms known as the Comprehensive Subject Index (CSI). Each article indexed by EBSCO is associated with two or more subject headings from this vocabulary which describe the specific content of that article. The use of a controlled list of subject headings allows every article on a given subject to be indexed with the same terms, regardless of the synonyms or circumlocutions used in the article itself. Use of the CSI also ensures that subjects are indexed at an appropriate level of detail. While keywords provided by the authors of an article might include buzzwords or a string of specialized terms that do not convey the overall subject of the article, headings included in the CSI and applied by indexers will aid researchers in consistently locating articles which pertain to the subject being searched.

To ensure that indexers and researchers can locate appropriate subject headings, the CSI is not simply an alphabetical list of approved terms. Subject headings are arranged in hierarchies which guide the users to select broader, narrower, and related headings which may apply to their search or to the articles they are indexing. Synonyms and near-synonyms are included as references which guide searchers to appropriate headings. Many headings are given scope notes which define the specific usage of the term in the context of the controlled vocabulary and provide references to related headings and to concepts which could easily be confused with the topic in question. All of these references help EBSCO staff index content accurately and aid researchers in using the databases effectively.

EBSCO’s CSI was originally based upon the Library of Congress Subject Headings vocabulary, which is used by thousands of libraries worldwide to provide standardized subject access to their collections. Over the years, EBSCO’s team of professional taxonomists, indexers, and subject experts has modified and expanded this vocabulary to ensure that headings exist to cover all of the detail included in EBSCO’s many different databases. Headings are continually added to cover new topics, and existing headings and hierarchies are reviewed periodically to ensure that their language matches current usage and that the relationships between terms fully and correctly represent headings’ logical position in the expanding universe of knowledge indexed by EBSCO.

The subject thesauri that appear on many of EBSCO’s subject-specific databases represent selections from the broader CSI vocabulary. These terms are selected by taxonomists to cover the scope of the database, and their hierarchies are shown to aid users in finding related topics. Because the entire CSI is available to index every article, articles may have subject headings that are not listed in a particular subject-specific thesaurus.