Archive for March, 2014

Qualities of a Scholarly Index

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

Scholarly books are the books that are published by academic presses.  A good quality scholarly index, according to Margery Towery, must be accurate, consistent, comprehensive, concise, readable, reflexive, audience-sensitive, and elegant.  This is the first of a series of blog postings on these principles comprising a good quality scholarly index.  I will first examine accuracy in an index.


At the very minimum, page locators should be accurate.  But more than that, accuracy requires indexers to digest the textual content and create an index that mirrors that content.  Page locators should not just show a page range, if it includes tables and figures in the middle.  In addition, page numbers, in order to be accurate, must also be consistent, at least where possible.  If a text discusses four countries and there are tables of statistics for each country, then the index should reflect that:

Afghanistan: statistics on, 34

Pakistan: statistics on, 98

Consequently, the accuracy of page locators includes preciseness of information and consistency in gathering and presenting that information.

Floating page numbers, lone page numbers that follow a main entry, are discouraged.  Following is an example:

cats, 11, 34; caring for, 14-15; number of legs, 45-46; scent glands of, 56; tails of, 92

What do these lone floating page numbers mean, anyway?

There are exceptions, however.  In scholarly books and many trade and textbooks, a chunk of page numbers on a particular subject may follow the main entry.  This shows that an extended discussion of the subject occurs within this page range.

yoga, 13-34; hatha,  16 (and more subheads)

In a quality index, accuracy should also be reflected in the choice of specific terminology.  As always, subentries should be accurately worded.

For more information, on the qualities of a good scholarly index, refer to Margery Towery’s article, “The Quality of a Scholarly Index: A Contribution to the Discourse,” in Indexing Specialites: Scholarly Books, published by Information Today, Inc.: Medford, NJ, 2005, pp.81-94.

For more information about the services provided by the author of this blog, see the Stellar Searches LLC website,