What is an index? • A manually created, systematic arrangement of key words and modifying phrases designed to enable users to locate information in a publication. • The process of creating “back of the book” indexes is not a mechanical one. It is a form of writing and like other types of writing; it is a mixture of analysis, judgment, and selection. • Indexing is not just a matter of picking out names or ‘significant’ words, and index entries are made only if they lead to worthwhile information. The final index entries can only be decided in the light of the content and context of the book as a whole.
An index is much more than an alphabetical list of topics with page numbers attached – at least, it should be. A good index is a road map that leads both experts and novices in your field to every pertinent sentence you’ve written, regardless of their point of departure and without dead ends or annoying detours. —American Society of Indexing
Components of an Index Index entries—individual records in an index consisting of (at least) a main heading, subheading, and locator or cross reference Key Words—terms that appears at the beginning of an entry and provide an avenue of approach for the user. Terms the user would most likely look under when looking for a concept or term of art Main Headings—appear at highest level in index and are key concepts covered in the text. Related information is subsumed under main heading either as cited entries, groups or cross references Subheadings—entries that modify the heading above Cross References—entries that direct the user to another main heading Index Locators—page number in the text where information referred to in an entry can been found
Indexing Work-flow 1. Indexer receives the following items: (a) e-book in pdf/word format (b) style specification
2. Indexing process (a) analysis of texts to identify important concepts and topics (b) selection of most appropriate keywords and modifiers to represent that information (c) organization of multiple references into meaningful subheadings and sub-subheadings (d) editing and review of index to produce consistent and logical guide to the publication that will cater for all potential readers
3. Delivery of index (a) in source file/RTF/*doc.format (b) by email attachment/diskette/printed copy Why have an index? Every serious book of non-fiction should have an index if it is to achieve its maximum usefulness. — The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th Edition
All nonfiction books should have an index to enable readers to find information quickly and easily. Indexes are tools of accessibility. If they are poorly made and cannot do the job for which they are intended, they frustrate the readers. Simply put, a bad index diminishes a book. Even those publishing houses that require authors to provide their own indexes recognize that the majority of them lack the objectivity, the training and the time essential for this vital task. — Barbara Horn, The Effective Editor’s Handbook (1997)
Some books live or die by their indexes. An index can be the determining factor in whether a reference book is useful … The Anglo-American tradition of serious writing and publishing calls for an extensive “scholarly apparatus” (indexes, footnotes, citations, and bibliographies) and it is always a shock to read continental European, especially French, books that lack footnotes or indexes … Indexing cannot be mechanized and its largely anonymous practitioners need much flair and intuition to accompany the automated approach. Pity the poor indexer! Most readers take good indexes for granted and curse bad ones and, in either event, give little thought to the people who created them. — Michael Gorman, Our singular strengths: meditations for librarians (1998)
A book is more usable and more marketable if it is well indexed. “A good indexer,” says The New York Public Library Writer’s Guide to Style and Usage, “like a good editor, serves as the reader’s advocate, making the author’s work accessible and comprehensible.” — L.F. Radke, The Economical Guide to Self-Publishing (1996)
So essential do I consider an Index to be to every book, that I proposed to bring a Bill into Parliament to deprive an author who publishes a book without an Index of the privilege of copyright; and, moreover, to subject him, for his offence, to a pecuniary penalty. — Baron Campbell (Scottish lawyer and politician; Lord Chancellor, 1859), Lives of the Chief Justices, Preface to Vol III
A full index is added, without which no publication beyond the size of a pamphlet can be deemed compleat. — John Noorthouck, Preface to Grand Lodge Book of Constitutions (1784)
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