Documentation and Information Centre

Library Catalogue and Thesaurus

Library Catalogue

Through its major online library, with more than 19.000 monographs, 1.250 journals and yearbooks, tens of thousands documents by the United Nations System, the Centre is an asset to research, training and field activities.

Click here to consult the UNICRI Library catalogue.

Criminological Thesaurus

A Thesaurus is a complex network of vertical and horizontal links, providing a mechanism for comprehensive and specific indexing and retrieval. It reflects an organisation of knowledge within a hierarchical structure. The UNICRI Thesaurus lists the keywords used by UNICRI Documentation Service to index its Library Collection documents and by users to retrieve catalogue information.

Initially (1968) the UNICRI Documentation Service chose to follow the United States Library of Congress Subject Headings that were the most commonly used instrument at the international level. However, they were too generic and neither reflected the international scope of UNICRI collection nor did they completely respond to the exigencies of users in the case of specific, in-depth searches. In 1996, the Service initiated the compilation of an ad-hoc UNICRI Thesaurus. To ensure continuity in cataloguing, it was decided to retain as many LC subject headings as possible and, consequently, the American spelling of terms.

A thesaurus is an arbitrary construction, since it attempts to classify human experiences that go beyond theoretical boundaries within rigid partitions. It is also a never-ending exercise, needing continuous up dating and revision. In this case there has been the additional difficulty of having to index documents originating from a variety of social, political, cultural and legal contexts using the same descriptors. As a consequence, the Thesaurus is far from being faultless or complete. Any criticisms and/or suggestions for improvements would be most welcome and we hope that the final product will be useful to other libraries and information centres interested in crime prevention and criminal justice.


The Thesaurus has been designed to cover all subjects related to crime prevention and criminal justice in the widest sense. For this reason, it includes proper terms from many disciplines and areas of activity, some of which refer to fields where crime prevention is only a component, and not necessarily the primary one. Therefore, some terms which have a broader meaning relate here only to their crime prevention and criminal justice-related components. For example, terms regarding "health" refer to documents on drug demand reduction, the relationship between mental illness and crime, treatment in correctional institutions etc. This is reflected both by the choice of descriptors and by their degree of specificity (e.g. specific diseases are hardly ever listed as descriptors. They come under the broad term "diseases" in as far as they are consequences of at-risk behaviour).

As mentioned above, under each term documents relevant to widely different contexts are indexed. For example, the descriptor "judiciary" refers to all those who administer justice. In some countries, the term will only refer to judges; in other countries, it also includes magistrates who are entrusted with the supervision of the correctional system.

Definitions and the network of related terms are included to facilitate both the indexing and the retrieval of even the most complex material. Finally, geographical descriptors reflect current UN usage (see the UNBIS Thesaurus and the United Nations Statistical Yearbook) with only a few exceptions. In the case of the United Kingdom, the LC subject heading "Great Britain" has been retained and in cases where official names start with "Republic of..." or any similar forms, common usage has been preferred (e.g. "Korea (South)"). In the case of the United States and Great Britain, geographical sub-divisions (respectively states and regions) have been included, because of the large amount of relevant documents in the UNICRI collection.

Click here to consult the Thesaurus.

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