New guidelines on ELSST content

Lorna Balkan


As part of the SERISS project, we have recently produced new guidelines for the management of ELSST content. These incorporate findings from the first results of the project which used back-translation to evaluate the translation quality of ELSST terms.

The new guidelines are aimed primarily at ELSST translators and content developers, but will also be of interest to end-users. They are divided into six parts, which cover the following topics:

  1. overview and background information on ELSST
  2. the main linguistic elements of ELSST
  3. management structure
  4. construction and maintenance of the thesaurus
  5. the translation process
  6. quality control issues

Part 1 covers the purpose, history ,scope and languages of ELSST, as well as versioning, access and copyright issues. Part 2 defines the various elements of ELSST, i.e. concepts, terms, relationships and notes. Part 3 describes the overall management structure, including the various roles and responsibilities, as well as the communication and decision making processes. Parts 4 and 5 explain how each element of the thesaurus described in Part 2 is constructed and translated. A list of vocabulary resources for the translation process is provided in an appendix. Part 6 discusses quality control issues, and includes a checklist aimed at both source language editors and translators.

The guidelines take account of ISO 25964-1, the latest international standard on thesaurus construction, published by the International Organization for Standardization, as well as the work of other knowledge organisation experts and thesaurus developers. Each part of the guidelines presents best practice for thesauri in general, followed by specific guidelines for ELSST.

Current and future uses

The new guidelines have already been used for training new ELSST translators and for briefing those who are using ELSST to index survey questions as part of ongoing work in the SERISS project. (The SERISS work consists of indexing questions from three cross-national surveys (the European Social Survey (ESS), the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) and the European Values Study (EVS) in three languages (German, Greek and Romanian) using ELSST terms from the relevant languages. The aim is to establish how well the ELSST terms match the content of the questions, and, at the same time, uncover any translation issues, either with the survey questions and/or the ELSST terms.)

The guidelines will also be used in the CESSDA-ELSST follow-up project, the Vocabulary Services Multilingual Content Management (VOICE) project, reported in the CESSDA-ELSST project update blog post. They will inform the new policy and procedural documents that will be required, as well as provide input for new training modules. Additional languages are planned for ELSST during the VOICE project (more details to follow). In order to increase its effectiveness, different modalities for providing translator training will be investigated.

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