The search value added by professional indexing to a bibliographic database

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Gross et al. (2015) have demonstrated that about a quarter of hits would typically be lost to keyword searchers if contemporary academic library catalogs dropped their controlled subject headings. This paper reports on an analysis of the loss levels that would result if a bibliographic database, namely the Australian Education Index (AEI), were missing the subject descriptors and identifiers assigned by its professional indexers, employing the methodology developed by Gross and Taylor (2005), and later by Gross et al. (2015). The results indicate that AEI users would lose a similar proportion of hits per query to that experienced by library catalog users: on average, 27% of the resources found by a sample of keyword queries on the AEI database would not have been found without the subject indexing, based on the Australian Thesaurus of Education Descriptors (ATED). The paper also discusses the methodological limitations of these studies, pointing out that real-life users might still find some of the resources missed by a particular query through follow-up searches, while additional resources might also be found through iterative searching on the subject vocabulary. The paper goes on to describe a new research design, based on a before-and-after experiment, which addresses some of these limitations. It is argued that this alternative design will provide a more realistic picture of the value that professionally assigned subject indexing and controlled subject vocabularies can add to literature searching of a more scholarly and thorough kind.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the North American Symposium on Knowledge Organization (NASKO 2017)
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event6th North American Symposium on Knowledge Organization: NASKO 2017 - University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, United States
Duration: 15 Jun 201716 Jun 2017 (Conference website)


Conference6th North American Symposium on Knowledge Organization
Abbreviated titleVisualizing Knowledge Organization: Bringing Focus to Abstract Realities
Country/TerritoryUnited States
OtherKnowledge organization and the systems that constitute its primary products seek to to make abstractions of knowledge concrete. Visualization is an increasingly popular way to create pictorial representations of knowledge using diverse methodologies, which seek to aid in the clarity of the comprehension and understanding of knowledge abstractions and their organization in knowledge space. Also, metaphorical “visualization” can involve the use of diverse methodologies to focus and enhance breadth of viewpoints in knowledge space. The Sixth North American Symposium on Knowledge Organization (NASKO 2017) invites participants to bring forth approaches to visualizing knowledge, knowledge organization, and knowledge organization systems.
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