Caryn Neiswender

The Importance of Controlled Vocabularies

Controlled Vocabularies are important to researchers for many reasons:

  • Consistency
  • Accuracy
  • Automation
  • Simplification of input
  • Interoperability
  • Enhancement of searches and discovery
  • Completeness
  • Long- and short-term management
  • Efficient use of time

In many cases, controlled vocabulary terms completely define the allowable content for a particular metadata element.

What is a Controlled Vocabulary?

A vocabulary is a set of terms (words, codes, etc.) that are used in a specific community. Vocabularies provide a mechanism for communication- be it written, oral or electronic- because the meaning of the terms are known and agreed upon by the community members. When a vocabulary is formally managed, it becomes a controlled vocabulary. In this case, "managed" means the terms are stored and maintained using agreed-upon procedures. Procedures should exist for adding terms, modifying terms and, more rarely, deprecating terms from a controlled vocabulary.


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Choosing a Tool

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The Importance of Tools

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What is a Tool?

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Common Metadata Standards

This guide describes several standards that offer a good starting point for those seeking a generic metadata approach to their data: ISO 19115 and ISO 19139, CSDGM, DIF, Dublin Core, and ADN. This is not an exhaustive list, but it presents a selection of standards that have the following characteristics:

Selecting a Standard

Metadata standards are formal specifications of how metadata should be expressed, and following an accepted metadata standard helps ensure that data are appropriately described for later discovery and reuse. But there are many standards, and not all standards are appropriate to a particular project. In choosing a standard from the hundreds available, it is important to evaluate options based on project needs with the goal of creating an interoperable system.


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