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Toward a Concept Inventory: suggestions for a computerised procedure


Toward a Concept Inventory
Project objectives
Summary of advantages of this proposal
Next step

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This paper is the revised and abridged version of Relationship Between Elements of Knowledge: use of computer systems to facilitate construction, comprehension and comparison of the concept thesauri of different schools of thought (1972, Working Paper No. 3 prepared for the Committee on Conceptual and Terminological Analysis of the International Political Science Association). The paper constituted a much-expanded version of a set of notes which were discussed in relation to proposals in COCTA Working Paper No. 1 (prepared by Fred W. Riggs, Secretary of COCTA), and in the COCTA Manifesto prepared by Giovanni Sartori, Chairman of COCTA, and Fred Riggs) at a meeting sponsored by the International Studies Association (ISA) and held, on the invitation of the. Rockefeller Foundation, at the Villa Serbelloni (Bellagio, Italy, 1-5 September, 1971. The paper was presented to a meeting of COCTA during the 9th Congress (Montreal, 1973) of the International Political Science Association (IPSA). [also a searchable PDF version]


Project Objectives

  • Concept Inventory Phase
  • Concept Classification Phase
  • Term Allocation Phase

Project Features

Organization of Project
Classification and Modeling
Entities, Relationships and Models

  • Types of Entity Included
  • Types of Relationship Included
  • Types of Model

Data to be included on each Entity
Limitation of Scope and Sources of Concepts
Concept Notation in Documents

Representation of Concepts and Augmentation of Intellect

Other Initiatives

  • Concept coding schemes
  • ADMINS system
  • Citation indexing
  • Subject classification schemes
  • Concept dictionaries
  • World problems identification
Language and Translation Problems
Documentation or Knowledge?

'The possibilities open to thinking are the possibilities of recognising relationships and the discovery of techniques of operating with relationships on the mental or intellectual plane, such as will in turn lead to ever wider and more penetratingly significant systems of relationships.'
(B.L. Whorf. Language, Thought and Reality]


This paper addresses itself to the practical problems of developing a means of filing concepts and other theoretical constructs in a data bank. Such concepts would be filed as entities having a distinct meaning and not in terms of the word by which they happen to be represented in a particular school of thought. The reason for this approach is that many of the words on which most reliance is placed in the social sciences e.g. 'group', 'class', 'power', or 'structure' have acquired a multiplicity of overlapping meanings to (1, 2).

The concept file so created would be used to generate lists, to facilitate classification and interrelation of concepts to produce concept thesauri, and, finally, to facilitate the allocation of 'authoritative' terms to permit the production of terminological thesauri.

The object of this project would be to ensure that any qualified person -- with a few safeguards -- would be free to register entities in the file which would then become available for secondary analysis at any interested research centre.

One form such analysis might take would be the construction and comparison of various models or classification schemes for theoretical entities. At a tertiary level, efforts could be made to link such entities with each other, cutting across the boundaries of disciplines, ideologies, epistemological approaches, paradigms or problems. This activity would provide new alternative means of approaching the entities held on the file but would not affect their use for more restricted purposes.

In this paper particular attention has been paid to some of the techniques available to analyse complex entity networks or structures. Because of this complexity and the problems of comprehending it, the use of interactive computer graphics has been examined as a powerful means of simplifying the task and making the project more widely significant.

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