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Thesauruses are a useful tool for finding information and managing material. They have been compiled to support information seekers and those who index documents so that an information seeker is able to use the same terminology as that used in the description. The way thesauruses are utilized when building databases is that references to publications and articles in databases are provided (i.e. their contents are described or indexed) using subject terms selected from thesauruses. These subject terms describe the contents of the publication or article, and they can be seen in the descriptor or subject field of the references in reference databases. Different databases normally have their own thesauruses specific to each database.

A controlled subject index is also known as a thesaurus. A thesaurus is often a specialized glossary for a certain discipline in which subject terms (or descriptors) also describe their relationship to other subject terms, i.e. references to broader, narrower and related terms. In the case of synonyms, instruction words can be used to suggest which subject term should be used (e.g. 'use', 'used for'). Glossaries can also be general in character, independent of databases and subject area.


Term "decision support systems" can be added straight to the subject search in the  thesaurus of ProQuest by "Add to search" button. It’s also possible to view substitutive and related terms. Image source: ProQuest <http://search.proquest.com> 3.7.2013


If only a few references are found, it is advisable to use a broader term from the thesaurus. On the other hand, if there are many references, it may be wise to use a narrower term in the search. Note that when we talk about a related term, this does not mean that it is a synonym.

Examples of thesauruses: VESA The VESA Finnish General Thesaurus (Finnish National Library), here is also a link to other thesauruses.

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