The Society of Indexers

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Conference 2012

Mercure Brighton Seafront Hotel, 11-13 July 2012

Conference photos here.



Chair: Maureen MacGlashan (SI)

The Triennial Meeting of the International Committee of Representatives of Indexing Societies (ICRIS) was held earlier in the day at which the International Agreement was discussed.   For this session each of the society representatives was asked to prepare bullet points to describe the recent achievements of their society, hopes for the next twelve months, the challenges facing them and plans for future conferences.

As the China Society of Indexers (CSI) was not represented Maureen MacGlashen reported that they are to hold their annual conference in September, aim to support proactive committees, back-of-the-book indexing and exchanges at overseas conferences.

Mary Russell (ANZSI) (International Co-ordinator): As a society of around 200 members, they have a monthly newsletter which is on their website together with other resources. They have joined the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) in support of the EPub standard. A bookmark has been prepared to advertise the next biennial conference, which is in New Zealand. USB sticks are prepared containing all the handouts and power point presentations.

Marlene Burger (ASAIB): The annual conference is held with professional editors and the society takes part in the National Book Fair. Conference attendance is climbing. They are held outside city areas, e.g. game reserves for a greener society and they also do their own catering.

Pilar Wyman (ASI): The recently formed Digital Trends Task Force (DTTF) is in touch with digital publishers with a view to include indexing in the EPub standard. They have been to the Frankfurt Book Fair and contacted Amazon in relation to indexing e-publications. They are involved with strategic planning as the “voice for excellence in indexing”. A management company is used for some of the logistics and a specific dedicated person organises the conferences. Volunteers do not have sufficient time. Participation in conferences has gone down as the membership (less than 500) has decreased. Chapters are encouraged not to hold meetings in the spring so that there is more enthusiasm to attend the annual conference for face-to-face sessions, rather than online or web cast presentations. You Tube interviews with conference speakers are used to encourage conference applications.

Elske Janssen (DNI): This small society holds its annual meeting at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where the SI training course was discussed. Several Germans were at the Netherlands conference.

Ruth Pincoe (ISC/SCI): About 120 members are dispersed over a wide area. The new website is completely bilingual and allows financial transactions for the first time. The previous conference was held in Ottawa with more than 45 delegates and created a friendly atmosphere. The next conference is to be held in June 2013 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Having examined evaluations from previous conferences it is apparent that some things have to work: timing - either so that they do not coincide with meetings of other organisations or they are close so both can be attended; Wi-Fi should be available; comfortable meeting rooms and chairs; good food; catering for overseas visitors; use delegates in the programme; not too many parallel sessions for small groups but encourage congenial and friendly atmosphere to get to know each other.

Adele Furbank (SI): The Publishing Technology Group (PTG) has produced a comprehensive website resource. The society also has Facebook and Twitter accounts. In the autumn 'Indexers Available' will have a new layout and rationalised subheadings. The challenge of organising conferences is to find willing unpaid volunteers from the regional groups. The office has taken over some of the administration but there is a need for a permanent conference committee. Enlisting the help of event management companies is prohibitively expensive. There have been falling numbers of delegates since 2009 and fewer students attending. It might be possible to offer discounts to encourage more trainees to attend.

Caroline Diepeveen (NIN): The newsletter started this year (in Dutch) on the website. Some of the Wheatley prize money was used to print bookmarks to promote indexing, which is not well known in the Netherlands.

In keeping with the Olympic theme of the SI conference, a ‘medal’ presentation was held when Mary Russell gave gifts as tokens of thanks to Ruth Pincoe (previous International Co-ordinator) and Jill Halliday in recognition of the work they have done for international relations.

The International Agreement now includes the availability of ASI publications at members’ rates to all societies, access to all newsletters, sharing of the PRG password, and others things to come. As indexing is a tiny profession within the large publishing world there is a need to pool resources.


Moira Greenhalgh: Is there an Indian society?

There seem to have been some small initiatives. Moyra Forrest has been contacted via LinkedIn by an Indian indexer.

There is a Japanese Society with a website but no one has been able to make contact with them.

Pilar Wyman said that there are Indian members of the Society for Technical Communication (STC). Although we are in competition over rates we need to work with indexers from around the world particularly in training.

Caroline Barlow



Pilar Wyman

Pilar Wyman’s plenary session took as its starting point her article in the March 2012 issue of The Indexer: ‘Hand-helds as ereaders: exploratory thoughts on hand-held devices and indexes’.

Pilar has been indexing Geriatrics at your fingertips (GAYF), produced by the American Geriatrics Society, for twelve years. It is published in print, web and mobile (iPhone/iPod/iPad, Android, BlackBerry) editions. The book version is a pocket-sized manual designed for healthcare professionals to take with them on their rounds; now they can slip a mobile device into their pockets instead. The web version contains all the content found in the print edition and is freely accessible at

Pilar is fortunate to have a close working relationship with the doctors on the editorial board, even flying to meet them every year; in the interim she checks with them on the best way to index a topic. Some terms may not appear to be useful, such as main headings starting with ‘prescribing information for’, ‘chronic’ or ‘acute’, but these are accepted by the medical profession.

Pilar updates the master index (currently 7,948 entries) annually, using CINDEX™, and culls from it the streamlined print edition (354 pages, 5,448 entries in 2011) and full electronic edition indexes.

The electronic editions of GAYF are produced by USBMIS, a software solutions company. For the first mobile edition, made for Palm PDA/Pocket PC in 2003–05, offshore subcontractors unsuccessfully attempted to carry the index over from the print edition; the publishers were soon seeking Pilar’s help. Initially, she verified links and index content using Excel worksheets, which was tedious. Now she works on an emulator. The coding is left to the software developers, who use a proprietary tool, XED (an XML editor), so Pilar can focus on the content. She collaborates with the technicians as they refine the tool. Please see the Indexer article for fuller details of the production process. The index has never been embedded into the text, although Pilar recommends doing this.

Pilar confessed that she can feel isolated, which puzzles me, as XED is used by USBMIS for other publications (such as Gray’s anatomy); are the other print indexes just ‘dumped’ into the electronic versions without involving indexers?

Some differences between the print and electronic versions were highlighted: the book has undifferentiated locators, but unique locators are needed for each electronic entry, so precision is paramount; there are only two levels of heading in the printed index but up to four in the electronic versions; it is not possible to read the book from cover to cover electronically.

Regarding the use of hand-held devices in general, Pilar emphasised the constant state of flux: she was informed only the previous night that GAYF had been accepted by iTunes. She stressed that the printed page is not necessarily the norm now and there is no standard mobile equivalent for it as screen sizes differ and the user can change the visual display at will. However, the content is constant so books are not dying; it is only the platforms that are changing. Indexers must rise to the challenge that there is an alternative to full-text searching by providing quality textual analysis and intellectual input before ebooks become notorious for their poor index provision. In the words of Russ Grandinetti, vice-president of Kindle content for Amazon, ‘how do you evolve being useful in a digital world?’. Originally, Pilar found indexing GAYF for hand-held devices time-consuming and worrying but now she finds it challenging and rewarding. She emphasised the added value she was able to give the publication through the index (she has seen GAYF at a hospital bedside).

As someone who owns neither an ereader nor a smartphone, nor has any knowledge of medical indexing, I found the presentation challenging; it brought home to me the importance of viewing new technologies through an indexer’s eyes and I can see myself going shopping very soon…

Sally Phillips


Representatives from four publishing groups gave presentations on how their respective organizations currently deal with information retrieval and how they expect indexing and other retrieval techniques to evolve in the future. 

Rohays Perry, of Psychology Press (part of the Taylor and Francis (T&F) group)

T&F publish 2,500 books and 1,700 journals a year. According to the book editor colleagues consulted by Rohays all their academic books need an index, preferably compiled by a professional indexer, “provided that the author will pay for it”. These editors did not seem to know whether their e-books included indexes.

Rohays is responsible for 200 online journals and only one of these has a subject index which does not appear to be much used and will probably be phased out. The trend since 1996 has been towards full text searching with filtering rather than indexes. E-book sales are rapidly increasing, now accounting for 13% of academic book sales; most journals are now published electronically - 96% of journals in Science Technology and Medicine are accessible online and 87% in the arts field.

An effort was made to digitise the 3-volume printed index to the Bulletin of Spanish Studies covering 1923-2003. This proved unsuccessful and an alternative is being considered, possibly using the keywords prepared by the authors for their articles. 

There is no grand plan for the future, rather small projects for improving text searching, aiming to improve taxonomies and search functionality.

Martin Woodhead, of Woodhead Publishing

Several years ago, as part of his advice to publishers for surviving the recession, Martin recommended outsourcing indexing overseas, a philosophy he still agrees with. His current indexing costs are £75,000 a year which he needs to reduce to remain competitive. This he does by outsourcing to companies in the Philippines and India; there have been no problems with this arrangement and no criticisms of the indexes. In subsequent questions it was revealed that some indexing work is being outsourced back to the UK from such overseas companies.

The company’s future plans include launching of all of their 100 titles on a digital platform, allowing users to buy or rent parts or the whole of a book. He feels that conventional indexes are not useful in this scenario. Users use Proquest, OCLC and other commercial bibliographic services. Google is less reliable.

Digital publishing currently provides 25% of their revenue which they expect to rise to 40%. Martin’s advice to the UK indexing community is to concentrate on intellectual products which add value, such as specialist taxonomies.

Jason Hook, Ivy Press

The Ivy Press is a packager responsible for 20 million printed books, with particular importance attached to design, aiming to provide instant knowledge as visually as possible. They maintain a reference list for sale to American university presses, direct to Barnes & Noble and in Europe. They have 70 employees plus freelancers and do not outsource overseas. They use professional indexers and have no plans to do otherwise. In subsequent questions Jason agreed to look at the possibility of including indexes in their online samples (as Amazon does).

The Ivy Press makes extensive use of electronic means to promote their books and is diversifying into stationery and postcards. E-books are not significant for them – despite the iPad they are not suitable as gift or coffee table books which are their main products.

Richard Padley, Semantico, digital publishing consultants

Semantico works with publishers to digitize their journals and books. For example, a recent project was to present the Grove Dictionary of Art online. The printed version has 34 volumes with the last volume being a detailed index, essential for a printed work. However analysis of the website two years after online publication established that users were not using the online index, preferring instead to use the search function.

In Richard’s opinion the move to online publishing is inevitable – 14% of US sales last year were e-books; most journals are only published digitally and even trade paperbacks are going online. Richly illustrated books are one of the last niches to survive in the printed sphere.

Rather than trying to make traditional BoB indexes work online, the way forward is to work on ways to improve online searching, using tagging or faceting techniques. The indexing profession is ideally suited to the intellectual task of helping to create controlled lists of keywords to enable efficient tagging – with taxonomies, thesauruses and ontologies.  The Semantico blog has more details.

Rohan Bolton


Michèle Clarke

I have wanted to do Michèle Clarke’s workshop since I started my indexer training. Anything related to horticultural science and gardening would be one of my dream indexing jobs and I was delighted when I heard it was to be offered as a 2012 Conference workshop.

The session started with a look at plant names. Having studied horticulture and worked in the industry, I knew a lot of this already but, had I not, then Michèle’s clear explanations of Latin names covered everything well – in any case, it was useful revision.

We discussed headings, double entries and cross references and did a couple of exercises. As Michèle rattled off lots of examples to demonstrate the points she was making, it became clear that indexing gardening books is anything but an easy option and anyone not a gardener will struggle. The first exercise considered just common names and then we had to correct the punctuation and typography, and correctly file, a list of Latin names. I made a note to obtain an up-to-date copy of the RHS Plant Finder – the ‘bible’ for checking names although it is also available online.

We moved on to discuss the use of plural and singular entries, the need for consistency and the different practices for capitalization in the US and UK. With all the various entry points for common names, localised plant names and the Latin names we appreciated how it might result in an index far too long. So the next section covered ways of cutting entries and saving space.

Filing order was the next area for discussion. Shock, horror! Michèle confessed to sometimes using letter by letter filing in the middle of an otherwise word by word index. Her reasons for this became absolutely clear when we completed our final exercise where we had to place a long list of headings in both letter by letter and word by word order. In order to cope with the number of entries we resorted to using index cards – an interesting demonstration of how indexers used to work.

In summary, this was an excellent workshop. The session covered a lot of material in a way that really helped my learning. Michèle used clear slides to demonstrate what she talked about and just occasionally we caught a tantalizing glimpse of her own garden. What a shame the workshop wasn’t longer for us to see more! I am so looking forward to getting that email offering me a commission for a gardening text.

Janice Rayment



Joan Dearnley

This was a very useful workshop which clarified approaches to indexing 2-dimensional media and highlighted many problems which the indexer is likely to encounter in this specialist field. Topics included names and biographical information relating to artists, titles and subjects of artworks, information relating to media and dates, specialist terms and locators.

Workshop participants were sent an indexing exercise a few weeks in advance of the conference; working on this drew attention to the kind of problems which could arise and enabled discussion based on thought and experience. Joan had written a charming text for the exercise herself (but unfortunately had not had time to create associated artwork which was left to our imaginations). The text consisted of a biographical introduction to an exhibition catalogue with spaces for illustrations in the text as well as the catalogue entries. It supported much lively discussion of options for indexing the artist who was the subject of the exhibition, her family, early artistic influences and her working life. The amount of information included in the main heading for the artist was considered, together with the extent and arrangement of subheadings. Additional thought is needed to handle dynasties of artists and unknown artists.

A major topic is the artworks themselves and the particular problems arising from an exhibition catalogue. There is a distinction between the artistic value of a piece and its value as a historical document such as in portraits used as illustrations. Should titles of works be given entries in their own right or under the name of the artist? We discussed what information to include in the heading for each piece of work, giving consideration to title, media, date and current location. It is important to give enough information to enable works with the same title to be distinguished. Preparatory pieces are works of art in their own right needing their own entry although they could also form subheadings to the final piece if warranted by the context. The treatment of sketchbooks and the works they contain is another aspect to be considered as are untitled works. In the indexing exercise illustrations and frontispieces from  published books were included in the exhibition catalogue and Joan highlighted the conventions and indexing decisions relating to this type of material. The indexer also has to decide how to enter works by other artists mentioned in the text.

The introductory note is a vital communication tool as abbreviations in the text and type distinctions, for example, are essential to save space and give visual clarity and need to be explained to the user. Whether to use page numbers relating to captions or pictures needs to be decided and, we were told, are normally related to actual pictures in exhibition catalogues. This can present problems if there is useful information in the caption.

Specialist terms can be confusing as they may not be used consistently or can change in meaning with time. Synonyms and closely related terms (e.g. cartoons, studies, drawings) may need to be clarified and distinguished.

Finally subject entries could be considered for types of works such as portraits or possibly thematic subject matter of artworks if appropriate in the context.

It will be evident from this brief summary of the workshop content that indexing art-related materials is fraught with unexpected difficulties requiring thought and a consistent approach, and an appreciation of the needs and expectations of the specialist user. Joan presented the issues clearly and systematically, allowing full expression of views from participants, so that the workshop was a most enjoyable and useful learning experience.

Judith Menes


Jane Read

Two definitions of negotiation were offered;

1. Negotiation is discussion with the aims of finding terms of agreement.

2. Negotiation involves conferring with a view to compromise or agreement.

It is necessary to believe in yourself and to believe that you are worth the fee you are negotiating. When women negotiate they are often regarded as being aggressive.

The first practical task involved writing down three reasons why we are worth £25 per hour.


Jane's guidelines on negotiation

* Negotiation is a discussion. What has the client got that you want? Money? Prestige? An interesting project?

* What can you offer? Subject expertise? Reliability? Willingness to work for less than SI rates?

* Negotiation is a compromise. What are you willing to concede? Accepting work outside your subject area? An unrealistic deadline? Less money than you’d hoped for?

* Sometimes you lose. What are your deal breakers? Unsocial hours? Low fees? Subjects outside area of expertise?

It is important to decide what you will/will not be flexible about.


An editor/indexer role playing exercise was next and the following outcomes resulted.

* Get all the facts before agreeing to take a project.

* Take time, don’t feel pressured to say yes/no straight away.

* Ask for a sample of text.

* Give some idea of the level of index you can provide for the fee or suggest it is not achievable.

* Remember to include thinking and admin time.

* Sometimes you lose. What are your deal breakers? Unsocial hours? Low fees? Subjects outside area of expertise?

Discussion took place about the fairness of SI rates.


Jane's Top Tips When Negotiating

* Smile when you answer the phone.

* Stay calm and be polite.

* Remember your 'deal-breakers'.

* Practice negotiating with a friend/colleague.

* Do not make ultimatums that you do not intend to keep.

* End on a positive note (if possible).

Getting Money From Reluctant Clients

The aim is to be paid a.s.a.p.

Resources include:

Late Payments of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1988

Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2002 (guide to legislation) (Money Claim Online)

A procedure including reminder letters/emails was discussed. Other issues dealt with in the workshop included communicating with authors and publishers who expect you to take a test.

This was a very useful and thoroughly enjoyable workshop and I can fully recommend it!

Angela Hall



Jan Worrall

Knowing that having a website as a new indexer may be a factor in getting work, or at least an easily accessible record of professional experience and subject knowledge for use with social networking sites, I thought it would be a good idea to attend Jan Worrall’s ‘Getting Online’ workshop. As it turned out the attendees were all trainees or fairly new indexers, although the session was by no means targeted exclusively at this group.

Prior to the workshop, we were asked to prepare some work. Jan had sent us instructions on how to download free webpage creation software and on what type of content ought to appear on our websites. We received a personalised template with our choice of page titles and colour scheme ready for use on the day.

On the day, we were prepared with the downloaded software, and our personalised copy and templates. Jan’s presentation was clear and concise, running through the ways to add information to a template. We added  text and images, URLs for a links page and learned how to make cosmetic changes to font and colour. Jan explained the importance of relevant metadata, and related features such as Search Engine Optimization to ensure a higher ranking in Google searches. Lastly, Jan told us about hosting and domain names, and gave us a demonstration of how to get from template on screen to live website.

It was well worth taking this workshop. No previous experience was needed, but at the end of the session we had the wherewithal to create a basic website containing all the information we might want to communicate to casual enquirers and potential clients.

Jody Ineson



Jane Horton

Taking Do Mi Stauber’s book Facing the text (Cedar Row Press, 2004) as a guide, Jane encouraged us to think about the way we mentally approach the task of indexing. Starting with the view that indexing is an ‘intuitive and subjective process’, the session considered different types of text, what indexable items we extract, how we express them for the user and the processes by which we create the index.

The importance of the type of text was considered. Some texts can be described as ‘organic’, with circuitous and wide-ranging discussion, often in social science and the humanities, with the indexer acting as guide or gatekeeper to the knowledge within. The need thoroughly to understand the text in order to restructure it for the user meant that such texts can be time-consuming to index.

We discussed different ways of working, such as reading through first and highlighting, underlining or annotating, versus starting indexing immediately at the beginning. Some of us found it helpful to read the introduction and conclusion and perhaps the notes first, then index the main body of the text before returning to index the introduction and conclusion.

This tied in with Stauber’s structuring of the text into metatopic, local main topics (perhaps chapters or sections) and ancillary main topics. We discussed how to deal with the metatopic (no entry, brief entry, cross-references or full entry), what can or cannot be drawn from chapter or section headings, and the danger of not seeing the wood for the trees – indexing the minor topics and failing to cover the main subject of the chapter.

Through the session we considered the role of memory in indexing; through making notes, retaining a mental map, or visualising the index. The idea that empathy with the text helped with indexing, and how to arrive at that empathy by immersing oneself in the text was also considered.

The session was very thought-provoking and sent us away having heard a bit more about how different indexers approach the task of creating an index and, hopefully, with more insight into what is actually going on when we make an index.

Jane Coulter



George Curzon

George emphasized the importance of making early contact with the editor by phone rather than by email. Establishing a rapport can lead to all sorts of benefits:

* It is easier to negotiate terms

* It is easier to ask them if they have any work available

* They become more willing to exchange information about, for example, outsourcing of work and the problems this may cause

* Editors can give you the ‘angle’ on the book which can help with planning the index

* You can explain that what the authors want is not necessarily what is best for the user or what will best sell the book.

Other advice included

* Always ask for a sample before agreeing to anything

* When negotiating fees, start by asking for a budget and then offer an estimate (occasionally the former might be larger!)

* In order to get a new client, you could offer a lower fee for a first commission, but you should make it plain that subsequent work will be charged at the standard rate

* If you hit trouble part way through, then it’s OK to call (but not at the last moment) and try and negotiate the fee up, there may well be another 10-15% available, particularly if you can provide a good reason as to why the job is more difficult than anticipated

* Be wary of fees based on word counts – so much depends on the structure of the book (e.g. number of illustrations).

* When indexing a later edition it is usually easier to start from scratch, unless you also indexed the previous edition and have access to the file (and can remember something about the text).

* You should ask for the standard hourly rate for any revisions, although if the work takes less than an hour most people will put this down to goodwill.

Cath Topliff



Sleiman El-Hajj

The indexing of the material associated with the life and work of Emile Bustani (1907-1963) has been a mammoth task. It was started in 2008 and covers some 40,000 documents some of which were handwritten. The whole enterprise is on 33 DVDs and 70% has been indexed but the next phase is to transfer the information online.

Emile Bustani was a major player in the history of the Middle East playing key roles in Arab-West conflict resolution and in the Suez crisis as well as maintaining long-term relationships with all the Arab leaders. The subject areas cover many aspects of politics and economics as well as social and cultural activities and the original archive itself includes telegrams, personal and business correspondence, speeches, lists, letters, memos, photographs, press cuttings and personal publications as well as poetry and copies or facsimiles of documents.

OCR, scanning and embedded indexing were not possible due to technical problems so Microsoft Word indexing was chosen. A 4-stage process was employed which included reading through and deciphering the content of the documents. The information recorded involved noting the folder and DVD number, the language used, whether or not it was handwritten, page numbers, illustrations, senders and receivers and of course title, date and places. A log of recurrent entries was kept for example speeches, oil companies, telegrams, elections and then these were broken down in into whether they were courtesy, business or legal communications. Consistency in headings was maintained and a reviewing and editing process at regular conferences was initiated.

The challenges were numerous: missing information, translatability, names and spelling, dates of receipt and of sending, legibility, and the time factor. The wide variety and condition of the material plus the fact that some of it appeared to be in facsimile form only were added complications.

It was generally agreed that the work accomplished so far was excellent but it needed work to convert it into an electronically usable form. Several suggestions were made including Microsoft ACCESS  and DB Text Worx as used by historical societies, and small libraries.

Sleiman El-Hajj was congratulated on his task and encouraged to look into the various proposals for moving the project forward.

Geraldine Beare



Mary Russell

Mary Russell warned us at the beginning of her session that, as usual in indexing, there is no one answer when it comes to the indexing of footnotes and endnotes.

Footnotes are found at the bottom of the page, endnotes at the end of each chapter or the end of the book. Usually footnotes/endnotes contain only details backing up statements in the text, and can often be ignored for indexing purposes. Those notes which expand on the text or add further information should be indexed.

We discovered that the notation for footnotes/endnotes is not as simple as at first appears. Is page number followed by 'n' sufficient? and what punctuation or style should you use?  What about multiple footnotes?

We discussed cases where the subject matter or persons mentioned in the endnotes had appeared in the main text. However, when the endnote gives information on 'Emily Foot', but her name does not appear in the text, how do you indicate in the index that the endnote arose from a particular page? Do you leave the reader to search the text for the endnote superscript number, or can you be more helpful?

We considered the best way of indicating multiple endnotes in an entry, and the treatment of long endnotes. Where endnotes are few and/or short, notes to more than one chapter may appear on the same page. We discussed ways of clarifying which chapter endnote was being indicated here. Indexes to legal and business texts often use paragraph numbers as locators rather than page numbers, and texts where each chapter has its own series of page numbers call for even greater precision. The system being used should always be explained in the introductory note to the index.

Mary's thought-provoking questions and clear explanations led to lively exchanges. Indexing is never simple, but working it out is always intriguing.

Sue Lightfoot



Christopher Phipps

The student peer review session provided a wonderful experience for trainees to meet, discuss and get helpful feedback on their indexes.

Six weeks before the conference Christopher Phipps e-mailed the biography text plus guidelines on the layout and length of the index to five trainees. The final copies of the indexes were e-mailed to Christopher a week before the conference, giving him time to then send each person on the review copies of all the indexes.

At the review we learnt that biographical texts are more narrative in nature and so one can be narrative with subheadings. It is good practice to give the metatopic its own ‘general life’ entry with subheadings such as ‘birth’, ‘character’, ‘health’, ‘relationships with other people’, ‘opinions’, ‘works’, etc. Strictly page numbers can be used but Christopher prefers chronological order. It can be useful to draw a family tree, although sometimes the author provides one already. A family tree can save one a lot of time. Another helpful tip is to check the contents page which is useful for formulating main entries. 

Advice was given on other names which includes people that were mentioned in the text. A good idea is to start off with the idea of having everyone included, and then at a later stage decide who you are going to leave out. Passing mentions are not so important to exclude here;  however you do need to be aware of them in the case of place names.

Forms of personal names and titles were discussed, and the importance of checking all the names was stressed. Christopher told us that he spends fifty-percent of the time outside the text checking. Obtaining guidance from external sources such as the DNB, Wikipedia, names indexes, etc was discussed.

Towards the end of the review Christopher handed out his own index and our discussion continued.

In summary it was a good experience being able to discuss ideas and problems face-to-face and get immediate feedback. This was an excellent learning curve and useful as one progresses through the course.

Glenda Whitaker

Despite the early hour for this session, it was the first one of the morning following the Gala Dinner, everybody turned up on time and in fine spirits, also attributed to the Gala Dinner? I was looking forward to this session as I had signed up to a tutorial a few months earlier which was also lead by Christopher Phipps and it would be good to put a face to the name.

Some weeks before the conference, we had all been sent a biographical text to index and then return. Today was our chance to discuss the approaches we had taken and consider some key points. We came armed with the topics to be discussed during the session.

As our text was biographical, certain considerations have to be kept in mind. Christopher recommended that one of the first stages is to research your character, the person whom the text is about. Wikipedia is invaluable for this, it not only gives you a preferred name or title for the person, but gives you a sense of their life, thereby avoiding any nasty surprises! It also allows you to decide the nature of your subentries.

Certain conventions of indexing, as taught in the training modules, are overridden

* The metatopic will also appear as a main heading, some subheadings, such as their career, arranged chronologically

* Texts tend to be more narrative, subheadings are more frequently laid out in run on style rather an indented.

* All people and places mentioned are included in the index, unless there is a good reason not to. Consistency is paramount when dealing with names and titles, again research these using Wikipedia

* Definite articles are not always inverted

The hour seemed to fly past and before we knew it, Christopher was wrapping up the session. He stressed the importance of researching names and consistency in their presentation. He also added that none of our approaches were ‘wrong’, just different. As with so many other aspects of indexing, you learn one way for the training, then learn to do it for real afterwards. (Reminds me of learning to drive a car!)

Sue Clarke



Moyra Forrest

The aim of this session, ably led by Moyra Forrest, was to tap into the ‘collective wisdom’ of participants and find solutions to the one-off or recurring dilemmas that perplex even the most experienced as well as novice indexers. Many of us are worried about conforming to rules laid down in textbooks and standards when these don’t seem to apply to an actual indexing situation. Quoting Douglas Bader, Moyra pointed out that ‘rules are made for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men’. So, quite often, when confronted by a dilemma we need to resort to common sense.

Among the dilemmas discussed were:

* Dealing with strings of undifferentiated page references, especially in multi-author works. We shouldn’t be afraid of strings, but need to evaluate the best way to make use of them. References can be analysed, for example by subject. When the same text or topic is repeated on different pages with no additional information, ‘also mentioned’ can be used.

* Glossaries – to be indexed or not? Should the client or the indexer make the decision?

* What to do when asked to do extra work at a late stage (cutting or adding entries)

* How to treat captions not on the same page as the image, but containing extra information – using roman, italics or bold italics?

* How to deal with topics interrupted by images

* Picking up a criticism by John Sutherland – should acknowledgments to sources in endnotes be indexed?

* ‘Lumping’ and ‘splitting’ (according to Wikipedia, ‘Lumping tends to create a more and more unwieldy definition... Splitting often leads to “distinctions without difference”, ornate and fussy categories, and failure to see underlying similarities.’). One example of ‘lumping’ given was an entry for ‘HIV/AIDS’ . This might be too general, and two separate entries, with cross-references, might be preferable.

Even though no consensus emerged for some of these dilemmas, the session was enjoyable and thought-provoking.

Christine Shuttleworth


Shirley May and Jill Halliday 

This workshop took place in a beautiful, light-filled suite on the top floor of a Brighton seafront hotel at the 2012 Conference. Despite it being first thing in the morning the day after the gala dinner, it was well attended by a good mix of both aspiring and distinguished medical and scientific indexers, including Pilar Wyman, president of the American Society for Indexing. Consequently it was a unique learning opportunity, with possibly hundreds of cumulative years of indexing experience in the room!

Many of the dilemmas which arise when indexing medical and scientific texts are due to them being multi-author works, with lack of consistency in terminology between originators.

Initially we completed a useful exercise in analysing and untangling several related terms, using a Venn diagram to demonstrate hierarchies and overlaps within them.

We covered some common and obscure synonymous terms and were supplied with links to online resources for checking terminology, synonyms, acronyms and American/English spelling.

Next we edited a sample medical index which threw up a multitude of issues. For example: conventions for use of hyphenation and en dashes; examples of terms which have different meanings in American and English; eponymous names for diseases; word forms; treatment of Greek characters and italicisation of microbiological names (some of which seem to change regularly!).

There was a wider discussion covering the importance of subject knowledge in specialist indexing, and the difficulty which publishers face in appraising medical and scientific indexes. Their quality is far from explicit as there are so many synonyms to deal with: the terminology for which the end user will search must be known, which requires current subject awareness. Jill Halliday described the index as a web or net of information created intellectually using this subject knowledge.

Pilar Wyman stated that the future looks bright for specialist indexers in the digital world, as the physical constraints of the back-of-book index are eventually be removed.

Thanks to Jill Halliday, Shirley May and all the attendees for a lively, informative and enjoyable workshop.

Lucy Leicester



Caroline Diepeveen

As a non-linguist who used to travel frequently to the Netherlands on business, I have long admired the facility with which the Dutch handle the English language. Also, as one who lists Religion among his specialisms in Indexers Available, I rapidly learnt to steer well clear of any title with more than a smattering of Arabic names in it. I therefore feel doubly qualified to stand in awe of the achievement of the team of indexers, led by Caroline Diepeveen, who indexed The encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, published by Brill. Their work was of such merit that they were awarded the Wheatley Medal in 2011.

In her fascinating talk, delivered in typically modest fashion, Caroline gave an insight into the considerable painstaking work involved in producing both the hard copy index and the online index.

Producing the regular hard-copy index was a challenge in itself because the publisher’s indexing module was hopeless and embedding proved impossible. The 14-digit locators (encyclopedia article + term within article) cannot have made the task any easier.

More intriguing was the online index, which was shown ‘live’ to the audience. A simple demonstration confirmed what every indexer knows: that an index far outstrips full text search in locating information. The electronic index is presented in a very clever user-friendly way, especially the locators, which are article titles. Ironically, the online index is very difficult to find. An award-winning piece of work surely deserves better.

Caroline will go into greater detail, in particular about the team aspects of the project, in a forthcoming article in The Indexer. We shall look forward to that with eager anticipation.

Jonathan Burd



John Dickie

John Dickie began his short but entertaining session by outlining the importance of plants and highlighting the current threats to diversity, namely climate change, population growth and habitat conversion. While in situ conservation is always considered best, seed banks are used as an insurance policy and the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) is the largest wild plant seed bank in the world, currently storing some 30,000 species and aiming to increase this figure to 75,000 species by 2020. John explained the seed drying and storage process and gave examples of how the MSB was actively involved in various projects, including plant research, education of local communities and the restoration of damaged habitats worldwide.

The MSB is supported by a vast amount of data and John gave us an insight into its storage and management, explaining that the information held in the various databases could also be used to target endangered species and generate expedition itineraries, routes and collection lists. He concluded by outlining future plans to improve data import/export to aid sharing with partner organisations and optimise use of the information held.

This was a fascinating and all too brief presentation that could only skim the surface of the work carried out and the data challenges faced by the MSB; I suspect that many of us present wished that John had been allocated a much longer session. 

Sally Roots

A PDF version of John Dickie's presentation is here. [ 4.9 MByte ]


Now that the website has been launched, Bill Johncocks opened the session by asking that SI members provide feedback on the direction they would like the group to take over the coming year.

Jan Ross gave a round-up of current trends in online publishing, with some interesting statistics on the growing e-book market. She said that the priorities of the publishing industry are changing rapidly with regard to print and digital, with a shift in some fields towards the latter as the primary format. Jan was clear that users want value added to indexes, with some publishers talking of combined search and index, giving results ordered by relevance rather than page number and based on the index first. She then talked us through the Luxid platform produced by Temis as an example of semantic enrichment of search, before going on to describe the dynamic visualisation of information demonstrated by the ontology she produced for the NHS. The software is owned by Smartlogic, and Jan would like to see it used more widely.

Bill then opened the session to questions from the floor, which ranged from indexing non text (such as sound and video) on e-books to working with IT specialists to mitigate problems of standardisation, touching on indexers marketing their own thesauri and ontologies and several other issues. The PTG was asked to look into liaison with publishing houses’ software and technical side, rather than the editors we are accustomed to dealing with.

This was a stimulating and thought provoking session, and I heartily recommend that colleagues spend some time perusing the PTG website. In future the intention is to develop the site both as a resource for indexers and for publishers, perhaps splitting it as necessary.

Shona Campbell

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