Documentation:MRAi DTES RAP Subject Headings Handbook

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Introduction to the Draft Handbook

What are subject headings?

Subject headings are words and/or phrases that describe, in brief, what a given item as about. A collection of subject headings typically takes the form of a "controlled vocabulary"⁠—a limited lexicon of terms that aim to maintain a certain degree of consistency in describing the collection.

Why use subject headings?

Subject headings help users quickly grasp an item's major topic(s) without having to engage with the whole of the item, thus saving the user time discovering materials they want.

Subject headings can also:

  1. help make searches more precise by echoing commonly-searched words and phrases,
  2. provide specific ways to browse the collection, if items with common subject headings are linked together, and
  3. establish preferred and non-preferred terminology for items in the collection.

How are DTES RAP subject headings different from those of other collections?

MRAi's DTES RAP collection is limited to research within and about the Downtown Eastside, as well as other informational or historical items of interest to the neighborhood. Therefore, its scope is somewhat narrower than that of some of the most prominent subject heading lists (such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings), which must encompass the whole of human knowledge. The collection is also multi-disciplinary so taxonomies such as MeSH can be too specific. Please note: in the 2020 version of the DTES RAP subject headings align with the host repository (e.g. cIRcle) in our automatic uploading so they come from a variety of different controlled vocabularies.

However, we acknowledge that the DTES RAP subject headings should be more targeted and specific in order to properly capture the unique, ever-changing verbiage and discourse surrounding its items. With the freedom that the DTES RAP's new capability affords, we can—and should—take the opportunity to reframe and refresh descriptions of the items that fall under our purview. For example, items that we curate that do not already have subject headings identified.

The DTES RAP has a varied set of audiences with distinct interests and experiences. Its subject headings should, to the best of their ability, serve all DTES RAP stakeholders: researchers, students, neighborhood organizations, and Downtown Eastside residents.

General Guidelines (this is a work in progress)

Emphasize keyword/tag-style subject heading syntax over Library of Congress-style subdivision strings

  • Might feel more natural for our users
  • Might also be easier for search to fetch relevant results
    • Women—health and hygiene USE Women’s health
    • Indigenous peoples—Land tenure USE Indigenous land claims OR Indigenous land rights

Do not use "inverted" headings

  • Instead, use adjectival phrases
  • Another approach that should feel more natural to all users
    • Research, participatory USE Participatory research

Minimize jargon, where possible

  • Ideally use a word or phrase that a typical user might use
  • Try not to use terms so specific that they would only be used in a single entry
  • Spell out acronyms that might be unfamiliar to general audiences
    • Foodscapes USE Food access AND/OR Food security
    • Patient-reported experience measures USE Patient surveys AND/OR Patient experiences
    • ART USE Antiretroviral therapy

Use person-first language

  • Destigmatizes—grants agency and acknowledges people aren’t defined by their conditions
    • Ex. Drug users USE People who use drugs
    • HIV patients or HIV-positive people USE People living with HIV
  • There may be a few exceptions to this rule
    • Ex. “Autistic people” is gaining traction among self-advocates, though most autism awareness orgs still use “people with autism”

Use preferred nomenclature and discard problematic/antiquated terms

  • DTES RAP headings should reflect current accepted terminology
    • Transgendered people USE Transgender people
    • Prostitution USE Sex work; Prostitutes USE Sex workers

Use synonyms and near-synonyms together to help recall

  • If a concept has two or more commonly-used terms, include some or all of them
    • Ex. Include both Homelessness and Houselessness

Do not use the term "Downtown Eastside" as a subject heading

  • Every item in the collection is about the Downtown Eastside, so this subject heading is redundant
  • However, subject headings may refer to specific areas and landmarks
    • Ex. Strathcona, Chinatown, Hastings and Main, Oppenheimer Park

Alphabetized List of Terms

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

J

K

L

M

N

O

P

People living with HIV

  • USE FOR
    • HIV-infected people
    • HIV/AIDS patients
    • HIV/AIDS victims

People living with mental health conditions

  • USE FOR
    • People with mental illnesses[/disorders]
    • People with psychiatric disorders
    • Mentally ill [people]
  • SEE ALSO
    • Mental health

People who use drugs

  • USE FOR
    • Drug abusers
    • Drug addicts
    • Drug users

Q

R

S

Sex work

  • USE FOR
    • Prostitution

Sex workers

  • USE FOR
    • Escorts
    • Prostitutes

T

Transgender people

  • USE FOR
    • Transgendered people
    • Transsexuals

U

V

W

X

Y

Z