Hein's New Topic Taxonomy: Enhanced Searching in the Law Journal Library


HeinOnline recently introduced an enhanced “topic taxonomy” to its Law Journal Library, making searching by topic more “intuitive, discoverable, and user friendly,” according to Hein’s December 28, 2020 blog post.

For context, each article in Hein’s Law Journal Library is essentially ‘tagged’ with at least one of over 1,500 narrow research topics that have been identified through "a combination of human curation along with natural language processing and machine learning." These Topics - such as human rights law, farmland, or business organizations, for example - help categorize each document. With a continually growing list of such concepts, Hein is now organizing its Topics into a “logical hierarchy that allows users to drill down from broad areas of study to their specific topics of interest.”

Hein describes this three-level taxonomy as an inverted pyramid that includes Categories, Subjects, and Topics, as depicted in this graphic from HeinOnline.

At the top of the inverted pyramid, Categories are defined as broad, “overarching disciplines that include Subjects and Topics within them.” Currently, Hein has five such Categories: Social Sciences, Humanities, Applied Sciences, Natural and Formal Sciences, and Other Industries.

Subjects, occupying the middle level of the pyramid, “are more refined areas of study that fall within a particular Category and include relevant Topics within them. There are currently 38 identified Subjects.”

As referenced above, Topics include the 1,500+ pre-existing research concepts “that now fall within the larger Subjects and Categories.” Topics inhabit the bottom level of the inverted pyramid.

To help visualize the taxonomy, Hein provides the following graphic in its blog post to show how the Social Sciences Category breaks down into Subjects and Topics.

Practically, this change means that Law Journal Library users will now see additional facets (post-search filters on the left-hand side of the screen) for Category and Subject in their search results. Each individual result will also list any applicable Subjects, in addition to the existing list of Topics, that have been assigned to that document.

For a step-by-step example of how to best use the new taxonomy when searching the Law Journal Library, as well as a refresher on how to use the Topics, check out HeinOnline’s detailed blog post on this new feature.

In the next few months, Hein will also be rolling out an "Interactive Taxonomy Browse Tool" to help researchers better interact with the new taxonomy, so keep your eyes peeled!

HeinOnline is a membership database available to most Jenkins members. Need help navigating HeinOnline? Ask us!

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