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College of Professional and Global Education · School of Information

Vocabulary Design
INFO 247

  • Fall 2022
  • Section 10
  • 3 Unit(s)
  • 08/19/2022 to 12/06/2022
  • Modified 05/22/2023

Canvas Information

This course will be available on Canvas beginning August 19th, 6 am PT.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Contact Information

Dr. Lei Zhang
Office Hours: Email or Zoom by appointment.

Course Description and Requisites

Principles and practices for the creation of subject vocabularies for the organization and retrieval of information-bearing objects. This course is designed to help you develop and apply the knowledge and skills in abstracting, indexing of diverse resources, and taxonomy and thesaurus construction. Special purpose collections, intranets, and e-commerce are some examples of settings where vocabulary design is a valuable professional skill.


INFO 202.

Classroom Protocols


Students are expected to participate fully in all class activities. It is expected that students will be open-minded and participate fully in discussions in class and debate in a mature and respectful manner. Use of derogatory, condescending, or offensive language including profanity is prohibited. Disagreement is healthy and perfectly acceptable. Expressing disagreement should always include an explanation of your reasoning and, whenever possible, evidence to support your position. In accordance with San José State University's Policies, the Student Code of Conduct, and applicable state and federal laws, discrimination based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability is prohibited in any form.

Program Information

Course Workload

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Goals

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes) Supported

INFO 247 supports the following core competencies:

  1. E Design, query, and evaluate information retrieval systems.
  2. G Demonstrate understanding of basic principles and standards involved in organizing information such as classification and controlled vocabulary systems, cataloging systems, metadata schemas or other systems for making information accessible to a particular clientele.

Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Apply principles of indexing, abstracting, and subject analysis.
  2. Apply the principles of thesaurus structure and use to create a NISO Z39.19-compliant thesaurus.
  3. Differentiate between the design of a single document index and the design of multi-document indexes.
  4. Analyze the information needs of a specific community and design a metadata structure and appropriate vocabularies/taxonomies for a collection useful to that community.
  5. Identify thesaurus applications in new indexing environments such as subject gateways, portals, and digital libraries.
  6. Identify and evaluate the socio-technical dimensions of knowledge organization.

Course Materials


Required Textbooks:

  • Cleveland, D. B., & Cleveland, A. D. (2013). Introduction to indexing and abstracting (4th ed.). Libraries Unlimited. Available as free eBook through King Library
  • NISO (2010). ANSI/NISO Z39.19-2005 (R2010): Guidelines for the construction, format, and management of monolingual controlled vocabularies. NISO Press. Available free as online PDF.

Recommended Textbooks:

  • Hedden, H. (2016). The accidental taxonomist (2nd ed.). Information Today. Available as free eBook through King Library

Course Requirements and Assignments

Coursework will consist of lectures, readings, online discussions, five assignments, and a final project. 

  • Assignment 1: Image indexing (6%)
    Examine concept-based and content-based image indexing through searching digital images. (Supports CLO #1CLO #3CLO #5)
  • Assignment 2: Journal indexing & abstracting (12%)
    Write an abstract for a journal article and index the article with the use of the thesaurus. (Supports CLO #1CLO #3CLO #5)
  • Assignment 3: Web indexing (10%)
    Examine the index style and format of A-Z web indexes through established evaluation criteria. (Supports CLO #1, CLO #3, CLO #5)
  • Assignment 4: Facet analysis (12%)
    Extract index terms from subject statements and organize these terms into facets. (Supports CLO #2, CLO #5)
  • Assignment 5: Relationship analysis (12%)
    Establish the thesaural relationships between the index terms and determine the form of these terms. (Supports CLO #2, CLO #5)
  • Final project: Thesaurus construction (30%)
    Design and construct a thesaurus including a classified index and an alphabetical index through five phases: domain analysis, term extraction, facet analysis, relationship analysis, and final term selection. The final project is done in groups, with points based on group work and individual contributions. (Supports CLO #2, CLO #4, CLO #5)
  • Discussion and participation (18%)
    Provide a substantive response to the discussion topics and respond to other students' postings. Include introductions, 3 discussions, and final project presentation. (Supports CLO #1, CLO #6)

All assignments are due by 11:59 pm Pacific Time on the due date. Please contact the instructor prior to the due date in cases of illness or emergency.

Grading Information

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100A
94 to 96A minus
91 to 93B plus
88 to 90B
85 to 87B minus
82 to 84C plus
79 to 81C
76 to 78C minus
73 to 75D plus
70 to 72D
67 to 69D minus
Below 67F

In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA) level work;
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, or BS-ISDA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation. You must repeat the class if you wish to stay in the program. If - on the second attempt - you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9 (PDF), relevant university policy concerning all courses, such as student responsibilities, academic integrity, accommodations, dropping and adding, consent for recording of class, etc. and available student services (e.g. learning assistance, counseling, and other resources) are listed on the Syllabus Information web page. Make sure to visit this page to review and be aware of these university policies and resources.

Course Schedule

Week Topics Assignments & Due Dates

Week 1

Aug. 19-21

Introduction to the course Introductions due Aug. 21

Week 2

Aug. 22-28

Types of indexes  

Week 3

Aug. 29 - Sept. 4

Controlled vs. free indexing languages  

Week 4

Sept. 5-11

Image indexing

Assignment 1 due Sept. 11

Week 5

Sept. 12-18


Discussion 1 due Sept. 18


Week 6

Sept. 19-25

Journal indexing

Assignment 2 due Sept. 25

Week 7

Sept. 26 - Oct. 2

Book indexing  

Week 8

Oct. 3-9

Web indexing Assignment 3 due Oct. 9

Week 9

Oct. 10-16

Term extraction Discussion 2 due Oct. 16

Week 10

Oct. 17-23

Facet analysis Assignment 4 due Oct. 23

Week 11

Oct. 24-30

Relationship analysis  

Week 12

Oct. 31 - Nov. 6

Final term selection Assignment 5 due Nov. 6

Week 13

Nov. 7-13

Taxonomy/thesaurus software  

Week 14

Nov. 14-20

Taxonomies and other types of knowledge organization systems


Week 15

Nov. 21-27

Taxonomy/thesaurus evaluation Discussion 3 due Nov. 23

Week 16

Nov. 28 - Dec. 6

Wrap up

Final project due Dec. 5

Final project presentation due Dec. 6