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USGS Thesaurus

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About the USGS Thesaurus

Science Topics, a component of the USGS home page, is a browsable index of web resources intended for the public. It augments traditional search and site-specific browse interfaces in concert with the USGS by State and About USGS sites, and is specifically intended to work alongside those facilities.
This infrastructure is specifically intended to help people outside USGS find information on USGS web sites without specific knowledge of the organizational structure and operations of the USGS. The interface design is based on the idea that finding information cannot be separated from understanding, so in the process of browsing or searching a user is assisted by seeing relationships among scientific concepts, and learns while searching.
Underpinning this interface are several controlled vocabularies structured as formal thesauri and authority lists, a catalog of web resources appropriate for the intended audience, and software used to create, review, and modify both the controlled vocabularies and the catalog records. The system serves as an example of the reapplication of classic library methodologies in the web setting.
Standards conformance
The USGS Thesaurus is the principal controlled vocabulary supporting Science Topics. It is designed as a formal thesaurus conforming to ANSI/NISO Z39.19, with rigid adherence to the hierarchical (BT, NT) term relationships, generic non-hierarchical (RT) relationships, and lead-in term relationships linking non-preferred terms to descriptors either singly (UF) or in a compound USE-WITH relationship. The thesaurus is faceted, meaning its top terms delineate general aspects of information resources:
Major educational fields, fields of study, and professional groupings within USGS.
Techniques, methods, procedures, or strategies for research, management, collection, or analysis of scientific information in USGS
Themes, subjects, and concerns for which USGS information resources are relevant
Product types
General representation of the information in a resource, such as a map or data set
Time periods
Geologic time periods and seasons of the year
Institutional structures and activities
Activities, processes, and organizational concepts
Level of detail
The thesaurus is limited in depth and specificity of coverage. It does not attempt to replicate existing controlled vocabularies such as AGI's GeoRef. The intention is to provide sufficient contextual cues for the information seeker to determine the relevance of a resource for his or her concern, not to locate precisely the answer to a specific user question.
Each information resource in the Science Topics catalog is categorized using several index terms. Consequently a document will be listed under each category for which it would be considered a relevant resource. Approximately 2000 web resources are listed in the catalog.

Questions and comments about the thesaurus or the USGS implementation of it can be sent to GS_Thesaurus@usgs.gov.

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