Report:Inspec/Special Indexing/Keyword or Controlled Vocabulary

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Keyword or Controlled Vocabulary

One of the main features of Inspec is the use of controlled vocabulary. The Inspec Thesaurus is the source of controlled vocabulary for the producers of the database to tag individual records with agreed-upon technical terms. In 2011, 9600 preferred terms were listed in the Inspec Thesaurus.[1] These terms range over the subject matter that Inspec covers and include subject matter from A to Z. By using an agreed upon source that is regularly updated over the years, Inspec employs a controlled vocabulary system that allows searchers to track down references that use antiquated terminology by tagging each record with a standard set of terms that can be accessed by the user. Additionally, Inspec has a field for uncontrolled vocabulary indexing which allows the skilled professionals compiling the information and reading the articles for tagging to input their own terms. This field becomes overflow for other controlled index areas of the file, allowing the use of terms which may be relevant, but not yet accepted in the Inspec Thesaurus.

DialogWeb displays a sample record. The Controlled Index and Uncontrolled Index are labeled as descriptors and identifiers respectively. The Controlled Index is filled out with terms from the INSPEC Thesaurus and the Uncontrolled Index is used for terms at the discretion of the IP professional who compiles the file.

The Inspec Thesaurus has a listing of about 9600 accepted terms, and includes the following additional information about each entry: relationships between terms (the thesaurus suggests narrower and broader terms related to each entry); the date that the term was added; and any terms used prior to when the term was added. Inspec does not retroactively tag individual records with newly added controlled terms or any other special indexing. One important aspect for the searcher to consider is the date that the terms were added to the Thesaurus. This date signifies when records added into Inspec began to be able to be tagged with that controlled term- not the date of publication. For example the term “carbon nanotubes” was introduced into the Inspec Thesaurus in 1999, however articles which were published in 1998 may have been tagged with “carbon nanotubes” if the introduction of the article into Inspec occurred in 1999 or later.

A record shows the controlled term “carbon nanotubes” which was introduced in 1999. The copyright shows that the record was established in INSPEC in 1999, but the proceedings (and the publication date) were prior, in 1998.

Another exception to this is that the Inspec Archive era records (1898-1968) have had controlled terms retroactively added.

A record from the INSPEC Archive file on Engineering Village.

editors note iconEditor's Note:

Searchers must be careful to include multiple controlled index terms that may predate terms they are interested in. Likewise, expanding a search by including related controlled index terms is advised, because the indexers are human and prone to making mistakes or being incomplete when adding controlled terms in any controlled vocabulary based system.

Another potential issue is that controlled terms in Inspec are not inclusive of their broader categories; in other words, when records are tagged with controlled index terms, only the most specific level of indexing is used. This means that a search on a broad, general term will not retrieve records that have been indexed to a deeper level. For example, if a searcher is interested in the keyword tag “Fuel Cells,” the Inspec thesaurus may also suggest the broader term “Direct Energy Converters.” However, a search on either of these two terms will not be inclusive of the other: querying the term “Direct Energy Converters” will NOT automatically return any records tagged only with the term “Fuel Cells,” and vice versa. Above all, searchers should be aware that controlled and uncontrolled index searching works best in combination with keyword searching.


  1. ”2011 Inspec Thesaurus and Classification Codes Changes.” The IET website, Accessed June 10, 2011.
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