Hamill Indexing Services
The Indexers' Job
An index is a set of terms and names, in alphabetical order; that provide access points to specific information in the text. An index links together information found at different places. A good index is made to the appropriate level of detail, given the complexity of the material and the needs of the audience. It will contain broad topics and specific names. It is the thoughtful choice of terms that makes an index a useful tool in information retrieval.
All non-fiction books need indexing, even the life story of a local pioneer will benefit from a name index. The index is a service you provide, and its inclusion will help to sell books. A detailed Table of Contents will not substitute for an index.
Under many publishing contracts, the author is expected to either provide an index, or to pay the cost of having one created. Indexing is a highly professional and specialized field. A professional indexer can create an index to meet any style requirements, complete the project quickly, and has the experience needed to create well constructed index.
How does an index differ from the Table of Contents or use of a word search function? Why do eBooks need indexing?
The following examples are given to illustrate that the indexer must make thoughtful choices to lead the reader to useful information. The researcher can waste time because a word search provides either too many `hits' or none at all.
Too Many Hits
In the example: “antioxidants” This term would appear throughout the text in a book about health. The context might be “the antioxidant vitamin C …”
A word search might pick up 40 to 50 references but the indexer will only list the pages where the topic is in fact - antioxidants.
The index is not a concordance of every time a term is used in a book.
1. Consider a word search on the topic of the history of feminism (in a book about Canada). The term “feminism” does not appear in the Table of Contents and the term “women” appears hundreds of times in the book. How would you proceed with a word search? In the index you would be able to look under “women” for the relevant subheadings.
2. Consider the following topic sentence on page 78 of our book on history.
“Ottawa established the Bird Commission in 1967...”
The term “Ottawa” is often used meaning the federal government of Canada. The “Bird Commission” is a less common name for the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. Many people still refer to this as the B&B Commission.
Here are the relevant entries in the index:
B&B Commission, 78
Bird Commission, 78
Canada, government reports, 78
equality, status of women, 78
federal government, reports, 78
feminism see women
Royal Commission on the Status of Women (Bird Commission), 78
Pearson, government of, 78
women, report on status of, 78
Our use of language is varied and expressive, and must be read, not scanned for particular words,
to be understood. Only a thoughtful examination of the ideas discussed can pull together information
not specifically listed in the Table of Contents. An electronic word search is a poor substitute.
For an article on the difference between a word search and an index see:
Please contact Carol by e-mail, phone, or post, at the contact information listed below.
180 Homer Road
Victoria BC CANADA V8Z 1V6
ph. 250 658 2856
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