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Social Work: Thesaurus Description and Video

This guide explains how to find articles in social work resources.


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How to Use a Thesaurus

A thesaurus provides a standard language or set of terms with which to describe a subject area. Applied to indexing of a database, it indicates to a searcher which terms to use to retrieve the maximum number of relevant documents.

The thesaurus terms are used by indexers to describe the contents of publications in a consistent, comprehensive and concise manner. These terms are listed in the Subject field (SU) of each record added to the database.

Using our interactive Thesaurus Search you can browse for terms via a hierarchical, alphabetical, or search words within a concept. These display formats allow you to navigate the thesaurus alphabetically or through the hierarchical relationships between terms. After finding appropriate terms, you can submit a search for those terms in the database descriptor field.


The Thesaurus of Sociological Indexing Terms contains an alphabetical listing of Main Term descriptors used for indexing and searching the Sociological Abstracts database and printed index, beginning with the April 1986 issue. It also references discontinued terms from the former Descriptor Authority File, which are used for accessing information prior to 1986. Associated term relationships are displayed under each Main Term. These may include a Descriptor Code, Scope Note, History Note, Use For and Use references, Broader Terms and Narrower Terms, and Related Terms. Each of these elements of the Thesaurus display is explained below.

Main Terms:

Nouns and noun phrases are preferred for Main Terms, with plural word forms used with nouns that can be quantified (Institutions, Values, Workers) and singular word forms used with nouns representing processes, properties, and conditions (Employment, Migration, Validity). The gerund or verbal noun is also used with process terms (Data Processing, Marketing).

Main Term descriptors are limited to 60 characters. Punctuation is used minimally. Hyphens are used where needed for clarity. In cases where ambiguity may occur, and to distinguish the meaning of homographs, Main Terms and Use reference terms appear with qualifying expressions in parentheses.

Authoritarianism (Political Ideology)
Authoritarianism (Psychology)
Repression (Defense Mechanism)
Repression (Political)

Descriptor Codes:
Descriptor Codes are seven-character, alphanumeric authority numbers for Thesaurus terms. New Descriptor Codes have been assigned to all Main Terms. These are distinguished from former Descriptor Codes by the "D" prefix. Since a Descriptor Code is a unique number representing a specific Main Term, it may be used in online searching as an alternative to specifying the Main Term itself.

Community Organizations D155100

Scope Notes

Scope Notes are brief statements of the intended meaning or usage of a Main Term. They may provide definitions, user instructions, or both.

Residential Mobility

Movement from residence to residence within the same community or geographical area. Do not confuse with Geographic Mobility.

History Notes

History Notes link Thesaurus descriptors with the Descriptor Authority File terms used in indexing prior to 1986. They are the key to searching the printed indexes and the online databases from 1963 through 1985. History Notes provide the range of years in which a term was in use, its former Descriptor Code, and the word form if it has changed. Often they provide search instructions. History Notes appear for both Main Terms and discontinued terms. History Notes are standardized according to the disposition of or action taken on the former Descriptor Authority File term.


Formerly (1963-1985) DC 383175.

This term was used in indexing between 1963 and 1985 and was retained in the Thesaurus in its exact form. The History Note references the former Descriptor Code assigned to the term.

Many discontinued terms appear with "Use Terms" notes pointing to Thesaurus descriptors that are closely related to the concept represented by the discontinued term. This type of History Note is used when two or more descriptors are referenced.

Fairness (1984-1985)

DC 171147
Use : Equity

Use For
Terms referenced by the ”Use term for” designation are non-preferred terms. They include synonyms and variants of the Main Term and specific terms indexed under a more generic descriptor. Often they include discontinued terms from the Descriptor Authority File; these appear with a qualifying range of years indicating their period of active use in indexing. For every “Use term for”, a reciprocal Use reference is generated, pointing to the preferred Main Term.

Academic Achievement

Use For
Academic Performance
Educational Achievement
Scholastic Achievement
School Performance
Student Achievement

Broader Terms & Narrower Terms
Broader Terms indicate the more general class or classes to which the Main Term logically belongs. Narrower Terms indicate the more specific sub-classes of the Main Term. The Broader Term/Narrower Term relationship is reciprocal: for every Broader Term reference there is a corresponding reciprocal Narrower Term reference.


Broader Terms

Narrower Terms Communes

Broader Term/Narrower Term relationships create thesaurus hierarchies, i.e., sequences of class relationships that may extend upward more generally or downward more specifically through several levels. At any point in the hierarchy, Broader Term/Narrower Term designations refer upward or downward only to the next most general or specific level. However, by tracing these references, a complete hierarchy or "family tree" can be approximated.

Related Terms
Terms referenced by the Related Term designation bear a close conceptual relationship to the Main Term, but they do not share the direct class/sub-class relationship described by the Broader Term/Narrower Term relationship. Related Terms are always entered reciprocally. They should be considered for use as other appropriate search terms.

Class Politics

Related Terms
Class Relations
Labor Relations
Social Class
Worker Consciousness
Working Class

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