Kinds of Indexing

“The indexer should be intelligent, widely read, well acquainted with publishing practices, and capable of working rapidly to meet almost impossible deadlines. Less time is available for the preparation of the index than for almost any other step in the bookmaking process… In addition to requiring intense intellectual concentration, good indexing requires reflection; that is, the indexer should stop frequently, review what has been done, and decide whether both author and reader have been well served by the choices made.”

~Chicago Manual of Style, 13th ed., 17.23-17.24

Definitions of Indexing for Different Contexts

Abstracting – NFAIS serves those groups that aggregate, organize, and facilitate access to information. Learn more at

Archival Indexing – See for a table of the descriptive information that is used to create a record for an ArchiveRecord in a SiteSearch database. See also Introduction to Archival Organization and Description or, Making Archival Information Available Through Subject Indexing

Art Indexing – Categories for the Description of Works of Art is a product of the Art Information Task Force (AITF), which encouraged dialog between art historians, art information professionals, and information providers so that together they could develop guidelines for describing works of art, architecture, groups of objects, and visual and textual surrogates. See complete article here

Back of the book indexing – A back-of-the book (BOTB) index is not easy to define. However, we recognize a BOTB index when we see it. We know how to use it. We know the frustration that comes with a poorly written one, or none at all. Further, we all agree on the purpose of an index, which is easier to define. Its purpose is to enable readers of a book (or other item that is indexed) to locate information as quickly as possible. See the complete article, What is Indexing?, by Dawn Spencer at Suite 101.

Biographies – A most significant difference between indexing biographies and indexing other texts is that, in biographies, the metatopic is a person. With every text there are difficulties to be overcome and important decisions to be made about how to index the main subject (or subjects) the book… Bell is placing her subject in context, and distinguishing between indexes to narratives and indexes to “documentary texts”, between indexing in the humanities (especially history and literature) and indexing technical publications, between indexing emotions and indexing facts. – Alan Walker, Review of Hazel Bell’s book, Indexing biographies and other stories of human lives. See complete review at

Business Indexing – Subjects including but not limited to accounting, marketing, management, supervision, business law, finance, banking, or investing. See

Cookbook Indexing – The indexing of cookbooks must be performed at a high level of EXHAUSTIVITY and SPECIFICITY, because people will look under all possible (and some impossible) entry words in order to find a recipe or picture of a dish they may have seen a long time ago but remember only vaguely. For example, “Aunt Nellie’s shrimp aspic mold with apple-potato-walnut salad” may need entries under apples, aspic, potatoes, shrimp, and walnuts, and perhaps also under seafood and molds, but Aunt Nellie may safely be omitted, since nobody but the author will know who she is or was. – Hans Wellisch, Indexing from A to Z. See

Databases, public – The following information items are reported for each public database: title; agency/owner; abstract; update frequency; legal constraints; forms of digital copies; copy media and costs; report cost; custom service costs; list of data modules; annotated list of fields. See also Thesauri/Database Indexing

eBook Indexing – An eBook Index is an alphabetical list of topics covered in the eBook, just like the index at the back of a printed book. Unlike a printed index, however, the eBook index has no page numbers; instead, the topics act as hyperlinks which take the user directly to the topic they wish to consult.

Embedded Indexing – Embedded indexes are now supported for publications created in Microsoft Word, FrameMaker, LaTeX and DocBook (SGML/XML).

Graphics Indexing – Image Retrieval, see

HTML – See web indexing

Newspapers – A newspaper index, because of its extreme usefulness, must be made to fit the time, the place and the occasion. It must be made to suit the needs of its creators and it must meet the demands of every type of user. . . . To be accurate and comprehensive, and, more important, to be objective in a scientific sense, the newspaper index should not interpret news and opinion according to the beliefs of its creators – it must reflect only what actually exists. See

OnLine HELP – Indexes work together with hypertext links, full-text searching, natural language searching and metadata (e.g. the Keywords Meta tag in HTML) to provide a range of search options. For example, a user may begin by using the index to quickly find key information. Using words from the results of this initial search, the user may then do a full-text search to find other discussions. And hypertext links lead to related examples. – Fred Brown, Allegro Technical Indexing

Periodical Indexing – Dealing with general article topics with complex locators and cumulative annual indexes and thesaurus development.

Scripture Indexing – There are methods and orders of grouping Scripture references of various religious traditions. One main manual is the Sheffield Manual for Authors and Editors in Biblical Studies by Clines. A few concordance web sites: StudyLight, The Bible Gateway,, Online Study Bible,

Technical Books – The STC (Society for Technical Communication) has an indexing special interest group designed to enhance members’ analytical skills, promote quality and usability concepts, encourage retrievability techniques that increase customer satisfaction, and promote communication between STC members and the indexing community.

Thesauri/Database Indexing – For indexers and searchers, it is an information storage and retrieval tool: a listing of words and phrases authorized for use in an indexing system, together with relationships, variants and synonyms, and aids to navigation through the thesaurus. – Jessica A. Milstead. See, or

Web indexing – using software to embed index links for complex web sites; See


  • Bibliographies
  • Catalogs
  • CD-Roms
  • Computer and Technical Manuals
  • Corporate Documents such as histories, books, minutes, manuals Depositions
  • Directories
  • Encyclopedias
  • Government Documents
  • Journals
  • Legal documents, such as contracts, legal briefs for attorneys
  • Legislative (laws)
  • Magazines
  • Manuals
  • Medical
  • Multi-Media
  • Municipal and legal codes
  • Name Indexes
  • Photographs/Images
  • Reference books
  • Regulatory Inspector test taker indexes (ie, food handler inspectors, building code inspectors, etc)
  • Scholarly books
  • Textbooks – Jr. High and High School
  • Self-Help Manuals
  • Sciences
  • Statistics
  • Textbooks
  • Trade books
  • Whitepapers for associations

Still more: and



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