Aboutness is a term used in Linguistics, Library- and Information science (LIS) and in Philosophy. In LIS it is often considered synonymous with subject (discourse). In Philosophy it is often considered synonymous with intentionality.

The term became popular in LIS in the middle of the 1970s due to arguments put forward by the linguist William John Hutchins (cf. Hutchins, 1975, 1977, 1978). Hutchins found that "aboutness" was to be preferred to "subject" because it removed some epistemological problems. Hjørland (1992), 1997) argued however, that the same epistemological problems also are present in Hutchins proposal, why "aboutness" and "subject" should be considered synonymous.


Beghtol, C. (1986). Bibliographic Classification Theory and Text Linguistics: Aboutness Analysis, Intertextuality and the Cognitive Act of Classifying Documents. Journal of Documentation, 42, 84-113.

Bruza, P.D., Song, D.W., & Wong, K.F. (2000). Aboutness from a commensense perspective. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 51(12), 1090-1105. Available at: http://www.dstc.edu.au/Research/Projects/Infoeco/publications/aboutness-jasis.pdf

Campbell, G. (2000a). Aboutness and Meaning: How a Paradigm of Subject Analysis Can Illuminate Queer Theory in Literary Studies. IN: CAIS 2000. Canadian Association for Information Science: Proceedings of the 28th Annual Conference. http://www.slis.ualberta.ca/cais2000/campbell.htm

Campbell, G. (2000b). Queer theory and the creation of contextual subject access tools for gay and lesbian communities. Knowledge Organization, 27(3), 122-131.

Fairthorne, R. A. (1969). Content analysis, specification and Control. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 4, 73-109.

Frohmann, B. (1990). Rules of Indexing: A Critique of Mentalism in Information Retrieval Theory. Journal of Documentation, 81-101.

Furner, J. (2006). The ontology of subjects of works. ASIS&T conference. http://polaris.gseis.ucla.edu/jfurner/furner-06asist-b-ppt.pdf

Goodman, N. (1961). About. Mind 70(277), 1-24.

Hjørland, B. (1992). The Concept of "Subject" in Information Science. Journal of Documentation, 48(2), 172-200. Click for full-text PDF

Hjørland, B. (1997): Information Seeking and Subject Representation. An Activity-theoretical approach to Information Science. Westport & London: Greenwood Press.

Hjørland, B. (2001). Towards a theory of aboutness, subject, topicality, theme, domain, field, content. . . and relevance. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 52(9), 774–778.

Hutchins, W. J. (1975). Languages of indexing and classification. A linguistic study of structures and functions. London: Peter Peregrinus.

Hutchins, W. J. (1977). On the Problem of "Aboutness" in Document Analysis. Journal of Informatics, 1, 17-35.

Hutchings, W. J. (1978). The concept of "aboutness" in subject indexing. Aslib Proceedings, 30, 172-181.

Mark Peitersen, A. (1979). The meaning of "about" in fiction indexing and retrieval. Aslib Proceedings, 31, 251- 257.

Maron, M. E. (1977). On Indexing, Retrieval and the Meaning of About. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 28, 38-43.

Putnam, H. (1958). Formalization of the concept “about.” Philosophy of Science 25(2), 125-130.

Ryle, G. (1933). “About.” Analysis 1(1): 10-11.

Salem, Shawky: Towards "coring" and "aboutness": an approach to some aspects of in-depth index­ing. Journal of Information Science principles & practice, 1982, 4, 167-170.

Swift, D. F., Winn, V. & Bramer, D. (1978). "Aboutness" as a strategy for retrieval in the social sciences. Aslib Proceedings, 30, 182-187.

Thalheimer, R. (1936). More about “about.” Analysis 3(3): 46-48.

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