The STW has been developed thanks to a project, which was partly funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics, to harmonize the different documentation languages and to provide uniform content access in economics. Besides the ZBW, the following institutions helped to develop the STW and among others still use the STW for subject indexing:
- GBI Gesellschaft für Betriebswirtschaftliche Information (now: GBI-Genios),
- ifo Institute for Economic Research,
- Hamburgisches Welt-Wirtschafts-Archiv, library (now: ZBW Hamburg branch).
The STW standardizes the documentation language for subject indexing and shows the semantic network between the concepts. It therefore meets the central thesaurus principles in accordance with the latest thesaurus standard ISO 25964. In addition, the FAIR principles are taken into account to a very large extent.
The STW consists of seven main subject groups, which form the top level of the thesaurus subject categories. They provide access to the thesaurus with regard to subject areas. The subdivision of the main subject groups “V” and “B” follow the usual subject fields in national and international economic research. The subdivision of the main subject groups “W” and “P” are mostly taken from the current commodity and sector classification of the Federal Statistical Office. The subdivision of the main subject group “G” is by continent.
For each concept its preferred and alternative labels and its relations to other concepts are put together into one concept record. In more detail, each concept record contains the preferred label, in some cases a scope note, synonyms and quasi-synonyms in "used for", one or more subject categories, and hierarchical as well as associate relations to other concepts. At the end of each concept record links to other thesauri and vocabularies based on mappings are shown. Since the STW has been published on the Semantic Web, resp. as Linked Open Data, the stable HTTP address (URI) for every term has been included.
An editorial team regularly verifies and decides on changes and updates concerning the vocabulary and the thesaurus structure.
Ongoing discussions in the discipline, proposals from users and suggestions from the ZBW subject librarians provide the material for these updates. Recently, a complete revision of the STW was completed.