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Step by step indexing

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To further understand what processes are involved in indexing a publication the steps in the process are outlined below.

Step 1. Receive final page proofs.

Step 2. Preliminary reading. Purpose: to determine the structure of the text, the subject matter and its level, ie, general, academic, children's etc.

Step 3. Read the work marking index terms with highlighter.

Step 4. Enter the terms, including main headings, sub-headings and locators (page references) onto the computer.

Step 5. Sort the index into alphabetical order.

Step 6. Print first draft.

Step 7. Edit the index. Purpose: refine headings and sub-headings

  • check locators against headings/sub-headings

  • check order

  • check 'see' and 'see also' references

  • check consistency of punctuation

  • check consistency of style (typology etc.)

  • check spelling

Step 8. Print second draft. Proof read.

Step 9. Format disk/ Print final draft.

Step 10. Write scope note. Purpose: to explain the structure, content and or style components of an index.

How to evaluate an index

Indexes should always be evaluated before they are published. The index should function well and look good. In the case were an index is of poor quality, the editor (evaluator) may have to arrange renovation, either by themselves or another indexer.

To evaluate an index you should read the index and randomly search for subjects using the index.

Features you should look for are:


  • Do the terms indexed complement the book, ie do they reflect the tone and level of the text?

  • Does a reading of the index make you familiar with the contents of the work?

  • Can you find specific information?

  • Are all the key subject areas indexed?

  • Does the index include key terms?


  • Does the structure of the index reflect the structure (organisation) of the text?

  • Is there an appropriate use and number of cross references?

Style of index

  • Is the index easy to read?

  • Are special page references easy to discern, for example, photographs, illustrations?

  • What is the maximum number of undifferentiated page locators? (usually not more than eight page locators per headings)

  • Is the typography consistent?

  • Is the layout well structured and consistent?

Glossary of indexing terms

Main headings: denote the subject matter of a publication/format and the filing position within the index.

Sub-headings: provide specificity which enables the reader/user to pinpoint precisely the information they require and reveals relationships within the text which determine the structure of a work. Sub-headings serve to qualify the subject/s.

Page locators: indicate on what page/section a subject appears and how that subject appears, ie, on single page/s or over a number of pages (page span).

See references: guide the reader/user from non-preferred terms to preferred terms, for example, cyberspace see Internet.

See also references: guide the reader/user to specific levels of information using related terms, for example, Internet see also world wide web.




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