Knowledge organization as a fundamental component of information science education

Dagobert Soergel, University of Buffalo (USA)

Abstract | Knowledge organization (KO) provides essential support for all information functions to improve both the efficiency of information functions and the quality of information services. KO is in a reciprocal relationship with the other major pillar of good information systems, the analysis of requirements of users and information system owners, of user capabilities, and of user cognitive processes and user behavior. Just as importantly, embedding KO structures into an internal information storage and all interfaces through which users interact with information enables users to absorb KO structures, almost as by osmosis, and use these structures for their own better understanding of information  well-structured information supports user learning (a thought that goes back to Bliss). So to build good information systems and provide good information services, information professionals must have a good understanding of knowledge organization. I will illustrate the importance of KO with examples from document templates that support authoring, information extraction, and document display; metadata schemas; faceted classification for search interfaces; concept hierarchies for meaningful arrangement, especially of search results, and browsing; KOS with conceptual relationships and vocabulary control that support (possibly computer-assisted) indexing (including social tagging) as well as search, especially free text search through query expansion; KO support for synthesizing information and sensemaking, for example, through causal maps. In Part 2 I will talk about principles students need to understand: (1) Entity-relationship modeling is the foundation for all methods of representing and storing information. (2) The principle of compositionality is pervasive in reality and thought, supporting parsimony and innovation. (3) KO takes in contributions from many disciplines, most notably data modeling, linguistics, and cognitive science, and is applied in many areas, most notably education.

Bio | Dagobert Soergel is Professor, Department of Information Science, Graduate School of Education, University at Buffalo since 2009 and Professor emeritus, College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, where he worked 1970 – 2010. 2014 – 2019 he served as consultant to the World Bank Information Technology Services (ITS), focusing on developing a corporate ontology, enterprise search, and text analytics. For 60 years he has worked on classification, ontologies, and thesauri; information retrieval and digital libraries; sensemaking; and relevance both practically and theoretically. He authored the still-standard text- and handbook Indexing Languages and Thesauri. Construction and Maintenance (Wiley 1974) and Organizing Information (Academic Press 1985), which received the ASIS Best Book Award, and more than 100 papers and presentations. He was the chief architect for two major thesauri, the Alcohol and Other Drug Thesaurus ( and the Harvard Business Thesaurus. He emphasizes connections in a wide field of ideas, including Knowledge Organization, relevance. sensemaking, learning, problem-solving, and IT support for new ways of learning and assessment. Awards: 1997 American Society of Information Science Award of Merit (highest award, of ASIS, given for life time achievement);  2009 Los Angeles Chapter of ASIST Contributions to Information Science (CISTA) Award (

Event Timeslots (1)

Day 1 | Thursday, June 20
Dagobert Soergel, University at Buffalo (USA)