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I have a site that will hold roughly 1000 posts/articles from an in-house magazine dealing with Australian naval history. The articles cover a range of subjects (such as Aviation, Intelligence, Ship Histories, Personal Histories and the like) and I've created categories to suit.

The names of ships in an article is very important for research and cross-referencing but there are a LOT of ships. And, how does one distinguish between a ship that is the focus of an article and a ship that is merely mentioned in passing?

I have uploaded about 300 articles so far. I've used the categories to identify the subject material, and I've created "tags" for the ship names (and other keywords). But tags dilute the significance of the ship covered by an article; e.g. if the article focuses on HMAS A, but also mentions HMAS B, C and D, then 4 ships are tagged but the relevance of the article to HMAS A is no greater than any of the other three ships. In addition, there's no way to create a list of articles by ship name or to cross-reference articles to the ship name in other material.

So, I am pondering whether I should instead create categories for ships that are the focus of an article and use tags only for the names of the "passing reference" ships. This sounds good in theory but it could add, maybe, 300+ extra categories; and in many cases there might not be more than one article where that ship is the focus.

Perhaps I am going about it the wrong way; might it be that I need a table devoted to ship names and create a meta link between the post and the table (in much the same way as, say, product names, work in an ecommerce transaction).

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Side note: you are not considering Custom Fields (post meta) in your equation. –  brasofilo Mar 17 '13 at 3:45
    
This is a pretty tricky question. I think a major influence on the answer is going to be how you intend to search the article. I don't think any default search will give you the results you want. If you write your own search function (or significantly alter the default) you can do what you need with categories, tags and custom meta fields. You just need to decide with has priority and build a relevance feature into the search. –  s_ha_dum Mar 17 '13 at 15:50
    
Custom Fields (brasofilo) - you're right; my bad. Though in my mind's eye (and thinking about it more), a table would make a good feed for a dropdown select list of Custom Fields in a post. –  Ted Mar 17 '13 at 21:45
    
s_ha-Hum hits the right note. "Why" informs "how", and I DO intend to design new (or at least modified) search tools. No matter which approach is taken, the list of names needs to be controlled/managed. Not mentioned earlier is also the opportunity to classify ships by type and class (e.g. HMAS Oxley was a submarine of the Oberon class). –  Ted Mar 17 '13 at 21:57
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I'm sorry I can't add to the comment section due to reputation privileges.

If you feel that the default combination of Categories, Tags and Post Types is too limiting to link your content together logically, you should consider Custom Taxonomies.

You can still use tags to link together articles about a common subject, and use a custom taxonomy called Ships for example, to link to other articles containing content about those ships.

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