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FYI: IR/Document Classification, New Web Interface

Author: Lois Boggess

FYI Body: The KUDZU group at Mississippi State University is making available a
web-based interface to a database of the Library of Congress Subjec
Headings. These subject headings are a loose hierarchy of phrases
which have been used for document classification for over a century.
They range from the very general ("Astronomy") to the specific
("Chiral drugs", which is a subtopic of "Enantiomers", which is a
subtopic of "Optical isomers", which is a subtopic of "Stereoisomers",
which is a subtopic of "Stereochemistry", which is a subtopic of "Chemistry").

The URL is

The Library of Congress Subject Headings are not as fully developed as
any of the professional classification hierarchies, but the system has
more breadth than any single domain-specific professional hierarchy
that we know of.

The web interface developed at MSU prompts for a search string. If
the search string matches a subject heading, then the interface
displays the information associated with that subject heading -
superclasses (which LC calls "broader topics") subclasses ("narrower
topics"), phrases which are roughly synonymous ("use for"), associated
call numbers, and the Library of Congress's listing of subdivisions of
a class (which is not the same thing as the subclasses of the class).

The interface/database does not try to "improve" on the literal
information provided by the LCSH hierarchy as published by the Library
of Congress. However, it does make suggestions if a search is
unsuccessful. For example, if a search string is "oxidation", which
is a subject heading, the system returns only those topics
specifically related to that subject heading by the published Library
of Congress documentation. On the other hand, if the search string is
"reduction", which is not an LCSH, the interface returns all the
subject headings which contain the term "reduction", about sixty of
them in all, including the subject heading "oxidation-reduction
reaction", which is pertinent to "oxidation" but doesn't show up even
as a related topic in the formal LCSH documentation for that subjec

This tool was made possible by an REU grant from the
National Science Foundation, under grant # IIS-9734807

Lois Boggess

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