Archive for March, 2015

Metatopic and Index Structure

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

The metatopic is more than just a characteristic, it is the overarching presence in a book index.  According to Webster’s, meta- means more comprehensive than the original term.  Often used with a discipline, such as linguistics or mathematics, it highlights a discussion in which the discipline itself is the object of critical examination.  The term metadata describes “data about data.”   Do Mi Stauber applies it to the main subject of a text, describing it as the structural center of the index, in which every single heading is implicitly related to it. The structure of an index includes the entry points as headings (and ideas which are more or less important to the metatopic), as well as the cross-references in a system that lies underneath the entry points.  The index structure builds bridges between the user and the content, with the goal of navigation, user satisfaction, guiding retrieval, and discovery.

The metatopic will drive the structural development of the book index.  The ever present problem with metatopics is the temptation to over-index the entire document under a single overarching topic or to ignore the direct indexing of the metatopic altogether.  There are two approaches to indexing the metatopic, which I will discuss in detail in my next blog posting.

For more information about metatopic and index structure, see the article by Margie Towery, “Metatopic and Structure: Creating Better Indexes, Part 7.” Heartland Chapter  of the American Society for Indexing Newsletter, Fall 2014,

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