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Syntagmatic relationships and indexing consistency on a larger scale

Hope A. Olson (School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin‐Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA)
Dietmar Wolfram (School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin‐Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 25 July 2008

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this article is to examine interindexer consistency on a larger scale than other studies have done to determine if group consensus is reached by larger numbers of indexers and what, if any, relationships emerge between assigned terms.

Design/methodology/approach

In total, 64 MLIS students were recruited to assign up to five terms to a document. The authors applied basic data modeling and the exploratory statistical techniques of multi‐dimensional scaling (MDS) and hierarchical cluster analysis to determine whether relationships exist in indexing consistency and the coocurrence of assigned terms.

Findings

Consistency in the assignment of indexing terms to a document follows an inverse shape, although it is not strictly power law‐based unlike many other social phenomena. The exploratory techniques revealed that groups of terms clustered together. The resulting term cooccurrence relationships were largely syntagmatic.

Research limitations/implications

The results are based on the indexing of one article by non‐expert indexers and are, thus, not generalizable. Based on the study findings, along with the growing popularity of folksonomies and the apparent authority of communally developed information resources, communally developed indexes based on group consensus may have merit.

Originality/value

Consistency in the assignment of indexing terms has been studied primarily on a small scale. Few studies have examined indexing on a larger scale with more than a handful of indexers. Recognition of the differences in indexing assignment has implications for the development of public information systems, especially those that do not use a controlled vocabulary and those tagged by end‐users. In such cases, multiple access points that accommodate the different ways that users interpret content are needed so that searchers may be guided to relevant content despite using different terminology.

Keywords

Citation

Olson, H.A. and Wolfram, D. (2008), "Syntagmatic relationships and indexing consistency on a larger scale", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 64 No. 4, pp. 602-615. https://doi.org/10.1108/00220410810884093

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited