Bug #558

paragraph tag needs formatting structure

Added by Matt Jones almost 18 years ago. Updated almost 18 years ago.

eml - general bugs
Target version:
Start date:
Due date:
% Done:


Estimated time:


Bergsma suggested that the paragraph tag needs structure to accomodate real-life
text such as lists and hierarchies. Chapal seconds the need. I tend to agree,
but am not sure currently how to accomplish this. The viable proposals from my
perspective seem to be:

1) allow XHTML inside paragraph tags
2) allow Docbook or simple Docbook in paragraph tags

Other proposals that seem less viable include:
3) Decompose structured text into a series of <paragraph>.
4) Inject structured text, with its native markup, as a CDATA block in <paragraph>.
5) Make <paragraph> nestable

Three (3) and five (5) don't seem to solve the problem completely. Four (4)
solves the problem but isn't at all standardized, and so interpreting paragraphs
would be essentially impossible depending on what people used for their markup.
Every author could use their own markup if we sanctioned (4).

Here's a copy of the email thread that lead to this bug:

---- Start message from scott.chapal at jonesctr org -------

Has there been any discussion regarding Tim's questions? I thought he
pointed out an area that deserves clarification before EML 2 is

I too, am thinking there ought to be additional structure to represent

Tim Bergsma <> writes:

The problem, as I have mentioned previously, is that prose metadata
(text) is often highly structured. <paragraph> gives us no way of
representing the structure of text, which is itself information. In
many instances, of course, <paragraph> is repeatable, which allows us
some leeway to represent sequential structure. But there is still no
way to represent hierarchical structure. This has significant
consequences. For example, a project-level abstract may include a short
outline of purposes or hypotheses. A research protocol may include
finely-grained outlines of contingencies and responses.

Three alternative solutions have emerged from previous discussion.
1. Decompose structured text into a series of <paragraph>.
2. Inject structured text, with its native markup, as a CDATA block in
3. Make <paragraph> nestable.


I hope that the leadership of the eml development community will offer
me some guidance on this issue. I really don't think number 1 is a
viable option, but could make peace with either 2 or 3.

I don't particularly like any of those options.

How about deferring to some [SGML/XML] standard to represent prose?

Possibly DocBook; use the (W3C)Schema when it is complete?

Or even the simplified DocBook?


Necessarily, existant documentation would have to be deconstructed or
converted to a markup language format. Or if visual formatting is
paramount then it could point to a (quasi) neutral file format like
.pdf, but that wouldn't accomplish textual indexing, querying and
structure that EML aims to support.

This comment of Tim's really struck me:

However, converting hierarchically-structured text to
serially-structured text will require innovations by the data
manager that raise him/her to the status of author, a status not
necessarily sanctioned by those who contributed the original

I think this concern is largely unwarranted. Were it viable,
Information Scientists, 'New' librarians and editors wouldn't be able
perform their functions either. Fidelity to an original work should
be mandatory, but the translation process should be made transparent
and trivial. If an editing review is needed, then create one.
Perhaps even a 'stamp of approval' or something. We're talking about
metadata -- documentation, after all. If it's not structured it's
really not very useful.

---- End message from scott.chapal at jonesctr org -------

para.txt (2.28 KB) para.txt Tim Bergsma, 08/22/2002 09:25 AM

Related issues

Is duplicate of EML - Bug #557: paragraph tag needs formatting structureResolved08/08/2002


#1 Updated by Chad Berkley almost 18 years ago

It was agreed in the conference call on 8/21/02 that Matt and Tim would look
over this issue and post possible solutions to bugzilla and eml-dev.

#3 Updated by Matt Jones almost 18 years ago

  • Bug 557 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***

#4 Updated by Matt Jones almost 18 years ago

Tim, so I looked over your suggestions. Good overview. Thanks. Here's my
take... Either we can go simple and include only a very few elements for
paragraph structuring, or we can go complex and let most of docbook in. But a
middle ground is the worst case. Here's why...

If we go simple, then we'll only need to define a text container type of tag
that can be used throughout EML, and we can make its few elements correspond to
docbook or XHTML (e.g., para, ol, ul, li, emphasis). This is easy to implement,
and simple so easy to understand for EML authors and EML readers. And it would
be a subset of docbook so the translation would be 1:1 to docbook.

If we go complex, we could wholesale import tags from the docbook namespace.
nobody will understand the tags (there are far too many), but we can cut and
paste from tools that output docbook format, and we can utilize already existing
stylesheets that know how to format & present docbook. This is a far more
complex but also more flexible solution.

If we go the middle road, then there are more tags than a user can understand,
and we lose the ability to wholesale import an existing standard (so off the
shelf stylesheets and software won't be usable, and its a pain to maintain).
Worst case scenario to me.

In looking at what you think is needed/not needed, it seems that the following
tags would be very useful:

ItemizedList, OrderedList, ListItem; (corresponds to ul,ol,li)
emphasis; (no italics in DocBook, predictably.)
procedure, step, substep; (Great! substeps nestable to any depth!)

You also say that sections would be useful, but aren't allowed in paragraphs in
section, title; (sections are great, but unfortunately cannot be in paragraphs.)

I would argue that the best course of action is for us to create a single
generic container for structured text that is mixed content and can be re-used
throughout EML, and is a direct subset of docbook. We might call it 'textBlock'
or something like that, and it could contain titles, sections, and paragraphs.
paragraphs could then in turn contain text, lists, and emphasis.

This would allow most of the formatting people would want, without importing the
whole docbook namespace. The simplest case would devolve to
<textBlock><para>This is some text<para></textBlock>, and so is basically what
we have now. This has the disadvantage of being non-standard formatting, so
requires us to have custom stylesheets for it (which would be a simple 1:1
mapping to docbook). But then, almost all of EML is non-standard and requires
custom stylesheets, so that's not really an additional burden. I'll go ahead
and create a candidate schema to demonstrate this proposal. What do you think?

#5 Updated by Matt Jones almost 18 years ago

OK, looks like people are pretty happy with TextType as it is, given that method
will be changed to accomodate the recursive step definitions. So, all we need
to do is go through and redefine all elements that contain paragraph to be of
type "TextType". For example, in eml-resource, "abstract" would be of type
"TextType". This is a little problematic for elements that currently allow
mixed paragraphs with citations or other elements, so for those we could change
the "paragraph" element to be named "text" and be of type "TextType". I'll do
this tomorrow if no objections are raised.

#6 Updated by Matt Jones almost 18 years ago

RESOLVED FIXED. TextType incorporated into all modules that used to contain
"paragraph" elements.

#7 Updated by Redmine Admin over 7 years ago

Original Bugzilla ID was 558

Also available in: Atom PDF