Topics can be used to narrow a search within a subject area. They can be accessed via the hyperlinked subject terms that appear on journal articles, research reports, and book chapter pages. Topics are also linked to topic cards to provide more context around a concept.

Topics are terms sourced from the JSTOR Thesaurus, a taxonomy built from 17+ controlled vocabularies that is integrated with the JSTOR platform.

Topic pages (example: storytelling) include a brief description that comes from Wikipedia. After evaluating a number of reference sources, Wikipedia was chosen because it provides the most comprehensive coverage across the thesaurus’ 45,000+ terms.

How topics are assigned

JSTOR systems run automated indexing processes over the content on the site. When indexing new content, the systems match thesaurus terms against the full text of a document so that:

  • If a thesaurus term appears in the document at least three times, then the topic can be assigned. This means that some shorter documents may not have any topics assigned.
  • Up to 10 topics are associated with the document; if more than 10 topics can be assigned, then those with the most matches are preferred.
  • Topics are applied to many journal articles, research reports, and book chapters, but not all. For example, they are not applied to book reviews or miscellaneous articles.
  • Topics are currently applied to English-language content only.

How we update topics

We periodically review data such as user search logs and new content releases. Users can flag topics as inaccurate on each document and can email comments and suggestions to The taxonomy team reviews all new feedback submissions on a weekly basis and makes updates accordingly. The team has so far worked with more than 30 subject matter experts in various disciplines who provide suggestions and feedback on topics and their context.

A repeating indexing cycle of the JSTOR corpus against the thesaurus ensures changes made to the thesaurus topics are applied on the JSTOR site. The turnaround time for such changes is typically around 2-3 weeks.