Using the UNBIS Thesaurus

SearchingDisplaying a TermAlphabetical ListCategorized ListNew TermsSpelling/Fonts/Content


Select “Browse Alphabetical List”, type a starting letter or character in the dialogue box and click on “Browse List”. Up to 500 terms may be displayed at a time. To move forward or backward in the list, click on the “Next” or “Previous” button. To start with a new letter or character, click on the “New Letter(s)” button.


The UNBIS Thesaurus is organized into 18 broad subject categories and arranged alphabetically within sub-category. If a term belongs to more than one category, it is repeated under each one. To view the terms within a major category or one of its sub-categories, select the category and click on the “Show Terms” button.


To search for a specific term in the Thesaurus, users may do a Simple Search or a Full Text Search.

    Simple Search
    This is the default search mode and should produce satisfactory results for most purposes. It searches the Term and Cross-reference fields for the word or words typed in the dialogue box. A search on the word apartheid will retrieve the terms apartheid, and anti-apartheid movements. A search on the word “ecodevelopment” will retrieve the term sustainable development because “ecodevelopment” is a cross-reference for that term.

    To retrieve word variants, a word may be truncated by adding an asterisk, e.g., bank*. This will retrieve terms such as agricultural banks, bank deposits, banking law, bankruptcy, etc.

    Full-text Search
    A full-text search will retrieve the specified word or words appearing anywhere in the record, including as cross-references or related terms or in the Category or Note fields. For example, a search on the term apartheid will retrieve the term apartheid, as well as racial discrimination, segregation, anti-apartheid movements, Bantustans, foreign interests, front-line states, South Africa and South African refugees, etc., because each of these terms is related to “apartheid”, through either a hierarchical or an associative relationship.

    Search Logic
    The default search logic for both Simple and Full-Text searches is the Boolean AND. A search on the words “housing needs” (i.e., “housing AND needs”) yields the single term housing needs, in which both “housing” and “needs” appear.

    The same search applying the OR logic (i.e., terms containing either the word “housing” or the word “needs” or both) retrieves 40 terms: housing needs, basic needs, educational needs, child needs, housing censuses, housing conditions, housing construction, etc.

    The third option is a PHRASE search, which yields results only if a term matches the phrase exactly. Please note that keyword searches (AND/OR) ignore punctuation, but punctuation must be included in phrases searches. Thus, while a keyword search for “most favoured nation” using the AND logic will yield the term most-favoured-nation clause, a search on the phrase “most favoured nation” will yield no results because most-favoured-nation is hyphenated.


Once a term has been identified, either by executing a Search or by browsing the Alphabetical or Categorized list, click on the term to see the full multilingual display. The term appears in bold font in each of the six languages, followed by the category or categories to which it belongs, “Used for” cross-references and the scope note, if any. Click on the blue pointer to see the term relationships (broader terms, narrower terms, related terms and top terms). On the Term Display screen, the “Back” button will only return to the previous screen, but the “Search” navigation button on the masthead will take you back directly to the Search Dialogue box.


The New Terms feature lists, by date of adoption, terms which have been added recently to the Thesaurus. Click on a term to see the full display.


· Chinese words are listed in the order of the Chinese national standard character set.

· Following UN practice, the spelling of English-language terms conforms to the latest edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary: labour, programme, etc.

· The UNBIS Thesaurus requires UNICODE based browsers such as MS Internet Explorer 5.5, Netscape 6.21 or higher versions. In order to use it, please ensure that your Internet browser complies with this requirement or that you have the appropriate fonts installed on your computer.

· Geographical names: Except for names of countries and major regions, the UNBIS Thesaurus does not include geographical names. However, geographical names are used as subject headings in bibliographic records of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library and are searchable in UNBISnet and in the United Nations Official Documents System (ODS), a full-text retrieval system for United Nations documents and official records.

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