Construction of Controlled Vocabularies: A Primer by Marcia Lei Zeng.
From the “why” page:
Vocabulary control is used to improve the effectiveness of information storage and retrieval systems, Web navigation systems, and other environments that seek to both identify and locate desired content via some sort of description using language. The primary purpose of vocabulary control is to achieve consistency in the description of content objects and to facilitate retrieval.
1.1 Need for Vocabulary Control (1.1)
The need for vocabulary control arises from two basic features of natural language, namely:
• Two or more words or terms can be used to represent a single concept
Example: salinity/saltiness VHF/Very High Frequency
• Two or more words that have the same spelling can represent different concepts
Example: Mercury (planet) Mercury (metal) Mercury (automobile) Mercury (mythical being)
Great examples for vocabulary control but for topic maps as well!
The topic map question is:
What do you know about the subject(s) in either case, that would make you say the words mean the same subject or different subjects?
If we can capture the information you think makes them represent the same or different subjects, there is a basis for repeating that comparison.
Perhaps even automatically.
Mary Jane pointed out this resource in a recent comment.