Formal Concept Analysis

“Formal Concept Analysis is a theory of data analysis which identifies conceptual structures among data sets. It was introduced by Rudolf Wille in 1982 and has since then grown rapidly. [. . .] Its method of formal data analysis has successfully been applied to many fields, such as medicine and psychology, musicology, linguistic databases, library and information science, software re-engineering, civil engineering, ecology, and others. A strong feature of Formal Concept Analysis is its capability of producing graphical visualizations of the inherent structures among data. Especially for social scientists, who often handle data sets that cannot fully be captured in quantitative analyses, Formal Concept Analysis extends the scientific toolbox of formal analysis methods. Statistics and Concept Analysis complement each other in this sense. In the field of information science there is a further application: the mathematical lattices that are used in Formal Concept Analysis can be interpreted as classification systems. Formalized classification systems can be analyzed according to the consistency of their relations. Thesauri can automatically be constructed from classes and their attributes, without having to create a hierarchy of classes by hand. As an example, an on-line library catalog using the Conceptual Diagrams of an automatically constructed class hierarchy has been implemented in the ZIT library in Darmstadt. “ (Priss, 2003).






(Priss, 2003)






Priss, U. (2003). A formal concept analysis homepage.  (Visited September 26, 2004)


Priss, U. (2006). Formal concept analysis in information science. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 40, 521-543.


Stumme, G. (2002). "Tutorial “Formal Concept Analysis”.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2005). Formal concept analysis.


Wolff, K. E. (1994). A first course in formal concept analysis. How to understand line diagrams. In: Faulbaum, F. (ed.) SoftStat'93. Advances in Statistical Software 4, 429-438.



See also: Concept in Knowledge Organization






Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 28-02-2007