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Sociological Abstracts 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 Descriptors field (DE=) of each record added to the database.

Using our interactive Thesaurus Search you can browse for terms via a hierarchical, alphabetical, or rotated index display. 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 SA 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

Main Terms appear in boldface letters. 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 OrganizationsD155100

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.

    Dependency Theory
      Theory that perceives the social and economic development of underdeveloped countries as being conditioned by the domination of more powerful countries through the extraction of surplus value or the repatriation of profit.

      Coordinate with specific disciplines to locate information about personnel in that discipline, e.g., for Chemists, use Scientists and Chemistry.

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

      A context-dependent term for strife, mental or physical, among individuals or groups. Select a more specific entry or coordinate with other terms.

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.

      Formerly (1964-1985) DC 334050, Phonetic/ Phonetics.

This History Note documents the former descriptor string Phonetic/Phonetics, which was used in indexing between 1964 and 1985. The word form has been collapsed to a preferred form.

      Formerly (1963-1985) included in DC 090600, Citizen/Citizens/Citizenship.

The "included in" note identifies a "term split." In this case, two distinct concepts-citizens and citizenship-were contained within a single descriptor string. Each was established as a separate Thesaurus descriptor.

    Chronic Illness
      Added, 1986. Prior to 1986 use Chronic/ Chronically (DC 090520) and Illness/Illnesses (DC 223700).

The descriptor was newly added in 1986. The History Note specifies how this concept was formerly coordinately indexed. The user of the printed indexes will find this concept prior to 1986 under either of the former terms Chronic/Chronically or Illness/Illnesses, while the online searcher should specify both terms in an "AND" search statement.

    Chromosome/Chromosomic (1969-1985)
      DC 090517, deleted 1986.

Discontinued terms appear in the Thesaurus with a qualifying range of years indicating their period of active use in indexing. The History Note provides the former Descriptor Code and notes that it was deleted from use in 1986.

    Confinement (1964-1985)
      DC 110940, deleted 1986. See now Detention, Institutionalization (Persons), or Hospitalization.

Many discontinued terms appear with "see now" 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

When terms from the Descriptor Authority File were downgraded to the status of Use references, the History Note records the former Descriptor Code. "Use" references direct the indexer or searcher from nonpreferred synonyms or variant expressions to preferred Main Terms.

Use For

Terms referenced by the Use For designation are nonpreferred 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 For term, 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

      Use For
        Cinema (1963-1985)
        Motion Pictures
        Movie/Movies (1963-1985)

    Reference Materials
      Use For
        Atlas/Atlases (1972-1985)
        Dictionary/Dictionaries (1963-1985)
        Encyclopedia/Encyclopedias (1963-1985)
        Guide/Guiding (1963-1985)


"Use" references direct the user from synonyms and other nonpreferred expressions to the preferred Main Term. They are the reciprocal entries of terms referenced by the Used For designation. Discontinued terms appearing as Use references are shown with a qualifying range of years of active use and History Notes recording the former Descriptor Code.

    Student Achievement
      US Academic Achievement

    Cinema (1963-1985)
      HN DC 090570
      US Films

    Encyclopedia/Encyclopedias (1963-1985)
      HN DC154600
      US Reference Materials

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 Collectives

      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.

    Broader .Organizations (Social)
    Narrower ....Kibbutz

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