Structure of the thesaurus


This revised and corrected version of the thesaurus now contains 3,889 terms, made up of 1,855 descriptors and 2,034 non-descriptors (synonyms and quasi-synonyms), and covers the following fields of education:

In accordance with the Standards for Thesaurus Construction, the names of persons, organizations, programs, projects, methods, places and events have not been included, except in the case of the Civil Code and Labour Code, which were present in the 1996 edition, and in the case of types of diplomas (e.g., DES, DEC, etc.).

Grammatical form of the terms

As recommended in the Guidelines for the Establishment and Development of Monolingual Thesauri, French descriptors are generally given in the singular form.

Use of qualifiers

Many terms are followed by a qualifier, which helps to clarify the meaning of the descriptor – e.g., Competition (Psychology). The qualifier is considered part of the descriptor, and must therefore be used with the descriptor during indexing or research.

Elements of a thesaurus1

A thesaurus is composed of five elements:

  1. Descriptors (valid terms);
  2. Non-descriptors (non-valid terms);
  3. Hierarchical relationships;
  4. Associative relationships;
  5. Scope notes and definitions.

These elements are abbreviated as follows:

  U Use
  UF Used for
  BT Broader term
  NT Narrower term
  RT Related term
  SN Scope note
  DF Definition
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1. Descriptors (valid terms)

A descriptor is an accepted term for the description of a given subject.

For example:


The English equivalent for each French descriptor is provided.

   ANG: Instruction

2. Non-descriptors (non-valid terms)

Synonyms, quasi-synonyms, abbreviations and spelling variations of the concept identified as the descriptor.

For example:

   Descriptors Non-descriptors
  Abandon scolaire Abandon d’études
Abandon des études
Abandon en cours d’études
Décrochage scolaire
  Diploma of Collegial Studies DEC

Non-descriptors are part of the thesaurus and can be used in search engines to help with the retrieval of information. Thus, users performing a search with DEC or diplôme d’études collégiales will obtain the exact same results. Here is an example of the presentation of non-descriptors for this listing:

     U Diploma of Collegial Studies
(“U” refers to “Use”)
  Diploma of Collegial Studies
     UF DEC
(“UF” refers to “Used for”)

In general, the terms that are most familiar to users of the thesaurus are used as descriptors, while lesser-known terms are set as non-descriptors. Similarly, abbreviations should generally appear as non-preferred terms, while the preferred term is the word in its full form. However, when the abbreviation is more widely known than the full form of the word, the full form can be designated as a non-descriptor.

3. Hierarchical relationships

The thesaurus can help to clarify the relationship between terms through the use of hierarchical relationships placed between a narrower descriptor and a broader descriptor:

For example:

     BT Educational institution
(“BT” referrs to Broader Term)
  Educational institution
     NT School
(“NT” referrs to Narrower Term)

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4. Associative Relationships

Relationships of association are established for descriptors in the following classes of concepts:2:

They can also be used to associate descriptors that designate similar (not equivalent) concepts, opposite concepts and complementary concepts.

For example:

  Adult education
     RT Continuing education
(“RT” refers to Related Term)
  Continuing education
     RT Adult education

5. Scope notes and definitions

A descriptor is sometimes accompanied by a scope note, which provides specific directions for the use of the descriptor.

For example:

     SN From 13 to 18 years of age approximately
(“SN” refers to Scope Notes)

A descriptor may also be accompanied by a definition in order to clarify its meaning:

For example:

  Health education
     DF Any combination of learning experiences designed to facilitate voluntary actions conducive to health.(“DF” refers to Definition)

Finally, this edition of the thesaurus also includes a Source field that allows the person developing the thesaurus to indicate the source of the reference where the descriptor or its definition were found.

1This section was developed based on a backgrounder created by Margaret Fulford (Consulting Librarian), entitled CRTC Thesaurus: Background Information, May 24, 2001. Back to text

2HUDON, Michèle. Le thésaurus : conception, élaboration, gestion.– Montréal : ASTED, 1994, pp. 106-107. Back to text

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