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REHABDATA THESAURUS 7th Edition, 2005.

Using the REHABDATA Thesaurus.

The REHABDATA database provides indexing and informative abstracting for documents from top rehabilitation and disability information sources. Researchers can access a continuously updated, free version of the database through the Internet from NARIC's REHABDATA Database page.

Over its 26-year life span the database has grown to be the largest general disabilities literature database, covering all disabilities and all ages, with over 72,000 records. In producing REHABDATA, the National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC) acquires documents from over 300 projects funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), as well as over 150 peer-reviewed and scholarly journals and magazines, and a small number of newsletters. Most publishers in the disability field are aware of and contribute to this vast archive.

Topics included in REHABDATA include:

  • Research and development in disability and rehabilitation including:
    • Health and function
    • Technology
    • Employment
  • Participation and community living
  • Capacity building
  • Demographics and statistics
  • Knowledge translation

NARIC staff use the REHABDATA Thesaurus to index the materials in the NARIC research and reference collections, and it can be used to assist in the retrieval of information from NARIC’s other databases. In addition, the Thesaurus was used to organize the NARIC Web site’s navigation system.

Version history.

This is the seventh edition of the REHABDATA Thesaurus, formerly titled the Thesaurus of Descriptors and the REHABDATA Thesaurus of NARIC Descriptors. Beginning with the third revised edition (April 1988), and continuing with the fourth (June 1989), fourth revised (December 1992), fifth (December 1994), and sixth (July 1999) edition, entries include when terms were added or deleted, in the form "term added December 1994," or "term deleted December 1992." Many non-terms were added to the fifth edition to make identifying relevant descriptors easier and faster. The Thesaurus exists as a prescriptive document: rather than defining language use in disability and rehabilitation research, it dictates the grammar and definitions used to describe disability and rehabilitation. In the sixth edition several problems of parallelism among term types were corrected. With the seventh edition, terms were revised to reflect the shifting paradigm of disability and rehabilitation research, as described in NIDRR's Long Range Plan as published in 1999. This edition also includes a revised Introduction and a rotated terms listing that can be used to solve retrieval problems.

This document is modified and updated on a regular basis; users are encouraged to send comments and suggestions regarding the Thesaurus. to the address in the front of this book, or via email to The online version of this document is available from NARIC's REHABDATA Thesaurus page. You may also download the full thesaurus in PDF format: Front matter; Introduction; thesaurus; rotated thesaurus

Descriptor Usage.

General terms such as “Rehabilitation Research,” “Disabilities,” and “Vocational Rehabilitation” are used primarily for documents providing either an overview of the subject or covering many disability- or rehabilitation-related topics. Users should select more specific terms when possible. Additionally, the terminology in the Thesaurus is in “lay” terms rather than technical terms; for example, “Cancer” rather than “Oncology.”

Sample Thesaurus entries.
Descriptor term Work adjustment
Scope note Includes programs or training designed to help persons with disabilities form a work personality that will help them increase their productivity and handle the day-to-day demands of competitive employment by developing self-confidence, self-control, work tolerance, ability to handle interpersonal relationships, and an understanding of work; includes job adjustment and on-the-job work behavior.
Narrower term(s) Work hardening
Related term(s) Employment
Vocational evaluation
Vocational training
Work attitudes
Work environment
Broader terms(s) Adjustment
'Use for' term(s) Personal adjustment
Vocational adjustment
Work evaluation
Not shown: Antonym descriptors (at)
(a non-term) Vocational Adjustment
Use this term Work adjustment

Cross-references in the REHABDATA Thesaurus.

The following examples illustrate how descriptors are cross-referenced.

Use term(s) -- Terms in boldface are descriptors; terms in regular face lead the user from common terms to authorized descriptors through a use reference:
Problem behavior
Use term(s): Behavior problems

Problem behavior is a commonly used term. Howeverm in the Thesaurus, the term Behavior problems is used to classify documents relating to this topic.
Under that descriptor a ‘use for’ reference exists:
Behavior problems
Use for: Problem behavior

Four other types of cross-references are used in this Thesaurus.

Antonym - leads the user between terms with opposite meanings:

Antonym: Deinstitutionalization

Antonym: Institutionalization
Broad term(s) - lead the user from a more specific term to a more general term:
Counselor education
Broad term(s): Education
Narrower term(s) - the reverse of a broad term, leads the user from a more general term to a more specific term:
Narrower term(s): Counselor education
Related term(s) - lead the user between terms that have some unspecified level or type of relationship between them:
Pilot projects
Related term(s): Model cities

Model cities
Related term(s): Pilot projects

Scope notes are included with many descriptors to define the meaning and range of use of the term:

Brief summaries of the major points of a document, usually giving a summary or outline of contents or findings.


Many sources of information aided in the development of the REHABDATA Thesaurus. Of special note were the Texas Rehabilitation Commission’s list of indexing vocabulary; Rehabilitation Literature, formerly published by the National Easter Seal Foundation; and the RSA Research Information Thesaurus, compiled by Claire K. Schultz, sponsored by the Medical College of Pennsylvania under contract to RSA.

Information on special areas came from many sources including the Educational Media and Materials for the Handicapped, Ohio State University; Guidelines for Descriptive Cataloging of Reports, the Committee on Scientific and Technical Information, Federal Council for Science and Technology, Washington, DC; the Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors, 8th Edition, Onyx Press; the Medical Subject Headings Annotated Alphabetical List (MeSH), National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA; and the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD.

American Psychiatric Association. Psychiatric Glossary, 4th Revised Edition. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1975.

American Psychological Association. Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms, 4th Edition. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1985.

Berkow, Robert (ed.) Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Rahway, NJ: Merck Sharpe and Dohme Research Laboratories, 1977.

Best, Gary A. Individuals with Physical Disabilities: An Introduction for Educators. St. Louis, MO: C.V. Mosby, 1978.

Bolton, Brian. Introduction to Rehabilitation Research. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1973.

Cawood, Liz (ed.) WORDS: Work 0riented Rehabilitation Dictionary and Synonyms. Seattle, WA: Northwest Association of Rehabilitation Industries, Inc., 1979.

Good, Carler V. (ed.) Dictionary of Education, 3rd Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1973.

Herner and Co. Health Promotion and Education Thesaurus. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control, Center for Health Promotion and Education, 1982.

Hinsie, Leland E. and Campbell, Robert J. (eds.) Psychiatric Dictionary, 4th Edition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1970.

Leibrandt, Thomas (sr. ed.) Professional Guide to Disease. Springhouse, PA: Intermed Communications, 1982.

Lurie, Harry L. Encyclopedia of Social Work, 15th Issue. New York, NY: National Association of Social Workers, 1965.

National Center for Barrier Free Environment. NCBFE Collection Descriptors. 1983.

National Center on Educational Media and Materials for the Handicapped. Instructional Materials Thesaurus for Special Education, 3rd Edition. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1976.

National Library of Medicine. Permuted Medical Subject Headings, 1982. Springfield, VA: National Technical Information Service, 1982.

Rosenberg, Jerry M. Dictionary of Business and Management, 2nd Edition. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons, 1983.

Sills, David L. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Social Sciences. New York, NY: Macmillan Co./Free Press, 1968.

Statt, David. Dictionary of Psychology. New York, NY: Barnes and Noble, 1981.

Stedman, Thomas Lathrop. Illustrated Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, 24th Edition. Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins,1982.

Thomas, Clayton L. (ed.) Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis Co., 1977.

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1979.

Wolman, Benjamin B. (comp./ed.) Dictionary of Behavioral Science. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold Ltd. 1973.