Collaborative tagging as a knowledge organisation and resource discovery tool

George Macgregor (Centre for Digital Library Research, Department of Computer & Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)
Emma McCulloch (Centre for Digital Library Research, Department of Computer & Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Publication date: 1 June 2006



The purpose of the paper is to provide an overview of the collaborative tagging phenomenon and explore some of the reasons for its emergence.


The paper reviews the related literature and discusses some of the problems associated with, and the potential of, collaborative tagging approaches for knowledge organisation and general resource discovery. A definition of controlled vocabularies is proposed and used to assess the efficacy of collaborative tagging. An exposition of the collaborative tagging model is provided and a review of the major contributions to the tagging literature is presented.


There are numerous difficulties with collaborative tagging systems (e.g. low precision, lack of collocation, etc.) that originate from the absence of properties that characterise controlled vocabularies. However, such systems can not be dismissed. Librarians and information professionals have lessons to learn from the interactive and social aspects exemplified by collaborative tagging systems, as well as their success in engaging users with information management. The future co‐existence of controlled vocabularies and collaborative tagging is predicted, with each appropriate for use within distinct information contexts: formal and informal.

Research limitations/implications

Librarians and information professional researchers should be playing a leading role in research aimed at assessing the efficacy of collaborative tagging in relation to information storage, organisation, and retrieval, and to influence the future development of collaborative tagging systems.

Practical implications

The paper indicates clear areas where digital libraries and repositories could innovate in order to better engage users with information.


At time of writing there were no literature reviews summarising the main contributions to the collaborative tagging research or debate.



Macgregor, G. and McCulloch, E. (2006), "Collaborative tagging as a knowledge organisation and resource discovery tool", Library Review, Vol. 55 No. 5, pp. 291-300.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below

You may be able to access this content by logging in via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.
If you think you should have access to this content, click the button to contact our support team.