It’s not so easy to find good examples of public web sites that leverage thesauri. Until recently, not many teams have had the knowledge or support to make this significant investment. We expect this to change in the coming years, as thesauri become a key tool for dealing with the growing size and importance of web sites and intranets. Another barrier to finding good examples is that it’s often not obvious when a site is using a thesaurus. When it’s well integrated, a thesaurus can be invisible to the untrained eye. You have to know what you’re looking for to notice one. Think back to the Tilenol/Tylenol example. How many users even realize when the site adjusts for their misspelling?
One good example that will serve throughout this chapter is PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine. PubMed provides access to over 11 million citations from MEDLINE and additional life science journals. MEDLINE has been the premier electronic information service for doctors, researchers, and other medical professionals for many years. It leverages a huge thesaurus that includes more than 19,000 preferred terms or “main subject headings” and provides powerful searching capabilities.
PubMed provides a simpler public interface with free access to citations, but without access to the full text of the journal articles. Let’s first take a look at the interface, and then dive beneath the surface to see what’s going on.
Let’s say we’re studying African sleeping sickness. ...