Archive for September, 2014

Audience in a Quality Scholarly Index

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

A quality scholarly index must be accurate, consistent, comprehensive, concise, readable, reflexive, audience-sensitive and elegant.  In the last few blog postings, I have discussed accuracy, consistency, comprehensiveness, conciseness, readability, and reflexivity.  In this blog posting, I will focus on audience-sensitivity as a factor in a quality scholarly index.

As indexers we often talk about creating indexes with the interests of the possible audience in mind.  More importantly, we think we know what various readers of a given book will want to find.  Most of the time, we’re probably as much on target as possible.  However, pointers (cross-references), qualifiers, and headnotes are useful tools that aid the reader in using the index.  We can also interpret the jargon for index users, as far as is possible.  In addition, we can cross-reference or double-post acronyms and their spelled-out versions.

Certainly, we do our best, but we truly have a shortage of data on what index users really want.  What we need is usability testing of our indexes on the targeted audience, which would provide us with much needed information.

The final blog post in this series will focus on the last factor of a quality scholarly index, elegance.  For more information about audience-sensitivity, please see the article by Margie Towery, “The Quality of a Scholarly Index: A contribution to the Discourse,” in Indexing Specialties: Scholarly Books, Information Today, Inc., Medford, NJ, 2005, pp.81-94.

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