Finding and Using the Magic Words: Keywords, Thesauri, and Free Text Search

Abstract: According to Ojala, information professionals are distinguished by their use of the best search terms, which differ between the web (natural language) and for-fee databases (controlled vocabularies). She notes the usefulness of using keyword suggestions from web advertisers and questions whether our controlled vocabulary expertise will be useful in the future of free text searches.


Ojala’s questioning of the long-term usefulness of expertise in many traditional keyword, indexing and thesauri areas is strikingly similar to some of my own thoughts. I think that, increasing, we are moving to more on-the-web interfaces and more Google-like search interfaces. I still think there will be a valuable place for filtering, ranking, and linking by information professionals, but I believe that natural language will gain significant prominence.

She also makes a very useful note of the value of industry coding systems as a standardized, yet ever-evolving source for controlled vocabularies. Some of Factiva’s Intelligent Indexing options would have been very useful as I was trying to create taxonomies for the Business Library web site at Emory.

Finally, I was intrigued, if slightly mystified, by the three handy search techniques she mentions: pearl growing, building block, and successive fractions.

Ojala, M. (2007). Finding and Using the Magic Words: Keywords, Thesauri, and Free Text Search. Online, 31(4), 40-42. Retrieved September 28, 2008, from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts Full Text.