Successful project management in terminology

Managing a terminology project in a company or an institution is no different from the steps and key factors involved in managing a project in any other field.

To start off with, you should plan and define the project, not only from a terminological point of view but also the general framework of the project: budget, resources, personnel, management team, communication, documentation strategies, tasks, milestones etc.

From the terminological point of view, the terminology project manager should clarify from the very beginning the type of terminology work they want to pursue (descriptive or prescriptive). They should also choose the domain(s) of the terminology project, the technology, the data model and data categories of the database, the source and target language(s), the import method (for existing terminology collections), the delivery format, and the quality criteria.

After clarifying all these points, the main terminology research phase of the project can start. In order to complete the project successfully, one should also think about an appropriate workflow for managing terminology.

There are standard steps in a terminology workflow, though this does not necessarily guarantee success. Every company or institution should adapt the classical model to their needs and resources. The following diagram is a complete recommended workflow for terminology management:


The needs of the users: this can be related to the specific domains where terminology is needed (or the texts where terminology should be clarified). It could even be single terms collected by the different departments of the company.

Documentation is where reference materials would be collected, analysed and selected.

A manual or (semi)automatic term extraction procedure (see our article “Why terminology extraction? “) would then be run at this stage. The extracted terms would be filtered and approved by a terminological working group consisting of the project manager, terminologists, domain experts, contractors etc.

The elaboration process of terminology entries would be different from company to company, and can be started at different stages of the process. The first step should be to elaborate the concept systems with the approved extracted terms, first in the source language, then adapted to the target languages.

The next step is to elaborate the term entries (i.e. finding and writing definitions, contexts of usage, grammar indications, synonyms or variants etc.). This could also be done first in the source language, based on which equivalents can be found in the  target languages.

To ensure high quality and reliable entries, revision and quality control is the next step in the workflow. This entails an overall quality control (checking equivalence between the concepts in all languages), revision of the content (correctness of definitions, contexts etc.), linguistic revision, formal revision (data categories, domains) etc.

After the content is ready, the dissemination phase is next. That means publishing the entries in the terminology database, dictionaries, glossaries, etc. The dissemination process also includes trainings given on how to use the database, dealing with terminological issues, giving the users the proper rights to take part in the terminology workflow, and offering them support in all matters related to terminology.

As a follow-up to the implementation and dissemination phase, the success and usability of the terminology project should be reviewed. To ensure quality during the project, the key steps (such as changes to the content, changes to the definition of the project, unexpected problems, and changes of the milestones or deadlines), should be documented.

Once the project is finished and the client has accepted the end results, a last step is recommended: the goal achievement and the project progress should be controlled. To finish off, check if the quality standards were respected, analyse the cost, and check if the deadlines and milestones were respected. Lastly, take the next step to plan a follow-up project after archiving the current project information.

Article written by Matilda Soare

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Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament