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Taxonomy of the youth field in Australia

Taxonomy of the youth field in Australia

The September 2004 issue of our journal, Youth Studies Australia (v.23, n.3, 2004) contained a feedback form relating to the development by ACYS staff of a taxonomy, or system of classification of terms, for the youth field. Approximately five organisations returned that form and their suggestions, mostly subject terms, were incorporated into the ACYS thesaurus of terms, ready for use in compiling a taxonomy.

The taxonomy of youth studies by Jerome Beker in the USA was the only taxonomy of the field that we could discover at the time.

Thesauri

To date, ACYS has not identified a single Australian subject thesaurus that covers the range of subject matter in youth studies to an appropriate level of precision. An overseas thesaurus, the UK Thesaurus on Youth: Integrated Classification and Thesaurus for Youth Affairs and Related Topics (National Youth Bureau, 1981) is the only specific youth studies thesaurus we could identify.

We have compared our own ACYS thesaurus, as developed to date, with Australian thesauri, such as APAIS, FAMILY and TAGS, the discontinued Thesaurus of Australian Government Subjects, and with the UK thesaurus cited above.

Working group

People are the essential, irreplaceable part of this work. Your participation would be highly valued and your response most appreciated. Please consider either joining our working group to further develop the taxonomy.

We would also be grateful for any references to alternative published or unpublished taxonomies as well as thesauri and controlled vocabularies.

1. BACKGROUND

2. THESAURUS

3. TAXONOMY OF YOUTH STUDIES

4. FEEDBACK

Taxonomy of Australian Youth Studies (TAYS)

1. Background:

During the development of the Australian Youth Facts and Stats project, ACYS revised its in-house thesaurus of terms and has now embarked on developing a thesaurus-based descriptive Taxonomy of Australian Youth Studies (TAYS) to help ACYS -- and potentially, other organisations in the field -- to identify and describe youth studies in a multidisciplinary context.

Why is a taxonomy is needed?

  • As an emerging field, youth studies is assuming an increasing academic profile -- and producing an increasing volume of literature. Straddling as it does both academia and the world of practice, youth studies -- the study of youth aged 10 to 24 -- is often described as a subset of other disciplines, and descriptions of the youth field are dependent on who is doing the describing (youth researchers, youth workers, policy-makers, statisticians, educators or knowledge-workers in related disciplines, or youth themselves).
  • The Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies communicates across many disciplines and with people who do not necessarily have academic or research backgrounds, it is important to make our information as clear and reader-friendly as possible.
    That includes the challenge of making our information consistent, using the same terms to mean the same thing in similar contexts.
  • When similar organisations use a different term for the same concept, this is often a symptom of the lack of communication between communities. A thesaurus and a taxonomy can help in cases such as this: 'Two databases may use different identifiers for what is in fact the same concept' ... and the solution is to provide 'a document or file that formally defines the relation among terms' -- Tim Berners-Lee, 'The Semantic Web', in The Scientific American, May 2001.

2. THESAURUS

Definitions

A thesaurus is a networked collection of controlled vocabulary terms.

Scope

The ACYS thesaurus aims to cover youth-specific topics -- as wide a range as possible (in detail) as well as other topics that are relevant to youth studies (in brief). The ACYS thesaurus will strive to represent terms in a consistent manner, in a neutral way, independent of any particular organisation or sector 'view'.

3. TAXONOMY OF YOUTH STUDIES

Having unique expertise and access to literature resources, the Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies is ideally placed to develop a youth studies taxonomy. ACYS expertise includes editors and a librarian who have all been in the youth field for many years, plus an extensive network of colleagues.

Definitions

A thesaurus is a networked collection of controlled vocabulary terms, and a taxonomy takes those terms, and organises them into a hierarchical structure. Taxonomies are the framework or guiding structures behind the classification schemes and indexing systems we commonly use, such as the Dewey Decimal System or Library of Congress, and they help to show the nodes, groupings and inter-relationships that can emerge from information in many patterns. A taxonomy -- the word is derived from the Greek words 'taxis', meaning arrangement and 'nomos', meaning law -- is also the unseen but vital backbone for databases in aiding precision searching.

Scope

  • ACYS, with participation from its collegial network, will construct a broad, uncomplicated taxonomic description of Australian youth studies, taking into account the multidisciplinary nature and linkages of the field and relying on the thesaurus model for its underlying structure. (TAYS will stop at each node where it bumps into a field of knowledge with an existing 'map' -- for example, family studies or suicide prevention.)
  • While our taxonomy will be internationally understandable, we are specifying the Australian youth studies field because we have noted differences in both British and North American application of terms. New Zealand is likely to be similar to Australia, and after consultation with NZ colleagues, we may well end up with TANZYS!
  • Also, in keeping with our primary focus, we are specifying youth 'studies' rather than the youth field in general, that is the focus is on research and practice rather than youth affairs.

FEEDBACK

  • ?Do you have a resource to recommend for this list? Please tell us about it: send us an email: [email protected], or write to: Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies, Private Bag 64, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania 7001 Australia Phone: + 61 3 6226 2591; fax: + 61 3 6226 2578.

NOTES

Finding the WORDS
In:Youth Studies Australia v.23, n.1, 2004 pp.2-3

Nailing the topics, insert in Youth Studies Australia v.23, n.1, 2004?

Also see: 'What are the differences between a vocabulary, a taxonomy, a thesaurus, an ontology, and a meta-model?' by W. Pidcock, Boeing, and comment by J. Ernst, online posting, 15 January 2003.