LIBR 510 (3) Taxonomies: Research and Evaluation

Offered on an irregular basis


MLIS and Dual MAS/MLIS: Completion of MLIS Core or permission of the iSchool Graduate Advisor

MAS: completion of MAS core and permission of the iSchool Graduate Advisor

GOAL: The primary focus of this course is taxonomies and how they are used.  It builds on skills and techniques you learned in courses in the LIBR core.  Taxonomies are hierarchical arrangements of concepts.  They are used in a wide variety of information systems, including library catalogs, popular websites, e-commerce sites, medical and scientific databases, and repositories of music and art.  While it is important that information professionals use taxonomies correctly, it is even more important to understand how non-professionals use taxonomies.  By doing so, we can see what users expect from taxonomies and which types of taxonomic structures people are most comfortable with.  This course considers two major aspects of taxonomies.  The first aspect concerns usability studies for taxonomies.  The second aspect concerns the theories and philosophies that form the basis of high quality taxonomies.  In professional practice, the evaluation of taxonomies is often not approached systematically.  This course will explore methods for evaluation that are widely used, as well as methods that are less well known.


Upon completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Describe and interpret current issues regarding the creation and use of taxonomies [1.2, 3.1, 4.1]*
  • Evaluate taxonomies as tools for organizing information [1.2, 4.1]*
  • Design and revise taxonomies to address the social and cognitive issues that people encounter when searching for information [1.2, 2.2, 3.1]*
  • Make knowledgeable recommendations regarding the selection and use of specific taxonomies [1.2, 1.3, 2.1]*

* Course objectives are stated in terms of student learning outcomes and reference the iSchool Statement on Graduate Competencies.


  • Hierarchical structure and labeling
  • Navigating taxonomies
  • Making inferences based on taxonomic structure
  • Qualitative and quantitative theories that model the design and use of taxonomies
  • Philosophical assumptions underlying taxonomies
  • Studies of specific taxonomies
  • Studies involving generic types of taxonomies
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