Research on authority control reported in archival, library, and information science literature suggests that efforts to control topical subject terminology are inappropriate and ineffective in an archival setting because researchers are unlikely to use the same terminology as that contained in the documents, and because most users value precision over recall (inclusiveness) in their searching. The author argues that archival retrieval will be enhanced by placing more emphasis on increasing the number of access points and less on achieving consistency in indexing. He describes various kinds of authority files and identifies several (occupation, time period, geographic coordinates, form-of-material, and function) that offer the most promise. He advocates the use of existing reference files and cooperative development of new ones, to be used not only in the traditional authority-control sense but also as valuable information resources in their own right.

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