Building a faceted classification for the humanities: principles and procedures

Vanda Broughton, Aida Slavic
2007 Journal of Documentation  
Purpose of the paper: An overview of principles and procedures involved in creating a faceted classification scheme for use in resource discovery in an online environment. Design/methodology/approach: Facet analysis provides an established scientific methodology for the conceptual organization of a subject field, and the structuring of an associated classification or controlled vocabulary. This paper explains how that methodology was applied to the humanities in the FATKS project, where the
more » ... ctive was to explore the potential of facet analytical theory for creating a controlled vocabulary for the humanities, and to establish the requirements of a faceted classification appropriate to an online environment. A detailed faceted vocabulary was developed for two areas of the humanities within a broader facet framework for the whole of knowledge. Research issues included how to create a data model which made the faceted structure explicit and machine-readable and provided for its further development and use. Findings: In order to support easy facet combination in indexing, and facet searching and browsing on the interface, faceted classification requires a formalized data structure and an appropriate tool for its management. The conceptual framework of a faceted system proper can be applied satisfactorily to humanities, and fully integrated within a vocabulary management system. Research limitations/implications: The procedures described in this paper are concerned only with the structuring of the classification, and do not extend to indexing, retrieval and application issues. Practical implications: Many stakeholders in the domain of resource discovery consider developing their own classification system and supporting tools. The methods described in this paper may clarify the process of building a faceted classification and may provide some useful ideas with respect to the vocabulary maintenance tool. Originality: As far as we are aware there is no comparable research in this area Research context This paper describes part of the work of a recent research project carried out at the School of Library, Archive & Information Studies, University College London, funded by a grant from the (then) Arts and Humanities Research Board. Under the formal title Towards a knowledge structure for high performance subject access and retrieval within managed digital collections, the research investigated the feasibility of creating a fully faceted indexing language for use with digital resources in the humanities. The work was occasioned in the first instance by the proposed merger of the two JISC-funded portals which deal with humanities resources in the United Kingdom, the Arts and Humanities Data Service, and the Humbul Humanities Hub (Broughton, 2002a; Broughton, 2002c) . Both of these catalogued resources to a high standard, using Dublin Core. This of course provides only a template for subject description with no preferred standard to be applied. A variety of tools for subject description were being used within the two services, and it was felt desirable to replace these with a single one. Journal of Documentation, 2007 (preprint) The Arts and Humanities Data Service consists of five separately managed data services dealing with history, archaeology, the visual arts, performing arts, and e-texts. The AHDS is also a digital repository, and holds several million items in its catalogues. Typically, the digital objects held by AHDS have very complex subject content, and are in a variety of media. Images are particularly important, but the repository also contains sound recordings, film and video, animation, and multi-media resources. A major problem for the service was the difficulty of cross-collection searching. At the time of the research, any attempt at this had been abandoned in favour of separate searching of the individual data services, even though this meant that searchers failed to retrieve much of the relevant material. The Humbul Humanities Hub is a rather different kind of resource. It locates, evaluates and describes digital resources, but does not itself hold any. It deals with material in conventional humanities subjects such as history, philosophy, theology, language and literature, cultural studies of various sorts, and library and museum studies. The merger, originally projected for 2002, failed to happen, so the research work could not be tested. Nevertheless, we feel this was a valuable exercise both in constructing the test vocabulary, and in structuring the data in a way that would support some degree of computer assisted indexing.
doi:10.1108/00220410710827772 fatcat:epsf2obrhvg3zfaas4dy62vvz4