The Power of Classification and Controlled Vocabularies in Knowledge Management


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Sep 22, 2023

3 min read


The Power of Classification and Controlled Vocabularies in Knowledge Management


In the digital age, the ability to effectively manage and organize vast amounts of information is crucial. Whether it's for personal or professional use, having a system in place to catalog and classify knowledge can greatly enhance productivity and accessibility. In this article, we will explore the importance of classification, information science, and controlled vocabularies in knowledge management, and how they can be applied to improve our digital workflows.

Understanding Classification and Cataloging:

Classification is the process of organizing information into categories or classes based on their inherent characteristics. It provides a systematic approach to arrange and retrieve data, ensuring easy navigation and retrieval. Cataloging, on the other hand, involves assigning specific labels or tags to items within a classification system. These labels aid in the identification and categorization of information, making it easier to locate and access relevant resources.

The Role of Information Science:

Information science plays a vital role in the effective management of knowledge. Drawing from various disciplines such as computer science, library science, and cognitive psychology, information science seeks to understand how information is created, organized, stored, and retrieved. By applying principles from information science, individuals and organizations can optimize their knowledge management strategies and workflows.

Controlled Vocabularies vs. Tagging:

When it comes to organizing information, the debate between controlled vocabularies and tagging often arises. While tagging allows for flexibility and user-generated categorization, the lack of control and standardized meaning can lead to fragmentation and confusion. On the other hand, controlled vocabularies provide a structured approach to classification, ensuring consistency and clarity in information organization. As the saying goes, "a controlled term is worth a thousand tags." Therefore, it is advisable to favor controlled vocabularies and classification systems whenever possible.

The Power of Personal Knowledge Management:

In the realm of knowledge management, personal knowledge management systems (PKMs) have gained significant attention. PKMs enable individuals to curate and organize their own knowledge repositories, tailored to their specific needs and preferences. By incorporating classification principles and controlled vocabularies into PKMs, individuals can enhance the effectiveness of their personal knowledge management, leading to improved productivity and information retrieval.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace Classification Systems: Implement a classification system that aligns with your specific domain or area of interest. Whether it's a hierarchical structure or a faceted system, having a well-defined classification scheme will enable efficient organization and retrieval of information.
  • 2. Utilize Controlled Vocabularies: Whenever possible, use controlled vocabularies to label and tag your resources. This will ensure consistency and clarity in your knowledge management system, making it easier to locate and access information when needed.
  • 3. Regularly Review and Refine: Knowledge management is an ongoing process. Set aside time periodically to review and refine your classification and tagging system. As your knowledge base grows, you may discover new categories or terms that need to be incorporated, ensuring that your system remains relevant and effective.


In the fast-paced digital world, effective knowledge management is crucial for personal and professional success. By understanding the importance of classification, information science, and controlled vocabularies, individuals can optimize their workflows and enhance their ability to locate and access information. Incorporating these principles into personal knowledge management systems empowers individuals to take control of their own knowledge and achieve greater productivity in their digital endeavors. So, take the time to evaluate your current knowledge management practices, embrace classification systems, utilize controlled vocabularies, and regularly review and refine your system. Your future self will thank you for it.

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