Back-of-the-book index & -indexing

Diodato (1994) made a survey of 255 librarians and college professors and obtained their opinions of three elements of back of book indexes. Both groups overwhelmingly preferred line-by-line subheadings to the run-on arrangement, even though many books use the latter format. Almost all librarians preferred word-by-word alphabetization to the letter-by-letter method, but only about two thirds of the professors  shared this preference. Strongest disagreement between the two groups occurred when most of the librarians preferred see references to duplicate entries, while most professors selected duplicate entries instead of see references. The article concludes that indexers and developers of indexing standards should consider the preferences of index users.


Perhaps the most advanced investigation of problems related to such indexes is made in the development of topic maps, which started as a way of representing the knowledge structures inherent in traditional back of book indexes.



Texts about the indexing of specialized books include: History (Towery, 1998), law books (Kendrick & Zafran, 2001), medicine (Wyman, 1999), psychology (Hornyak, 2002), among others.






Diodato, V. (1994). User preferences for features in back of book indexes. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 45(7), 529-536.

Diodato, V. & Gandt, G. (1991). Back of book indexes and the characteristics of author and nonauthor indexing: Report of an exploratory study. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 42(5), 341-350.

Enser, P. G. B. (1985). Automatic classification of book material represented by back-of-the-book index. Journal of Documentation, 41(3), 135-155.


Fugmann, R. (2006). Das Buchregister Methodische Grundlagen und praktische Anwendung. Frankfurt am Main: DGI. (DGI Schrift; Informationswissenschaft - 10).

Grosch, A. N. (1986). Index-aid: Computer assisted back-of-the-book indexing. Electronic Library, 4(5), 278-280.


Hornyak, B. (2002).  Indexing Specialties: Psychology. Medford, NJ :Information Today, Inc.


Kendrick, P. & Zafran, E. L. (Eds.). (2001). Indexing Specialties: Law. Medford, NJ :Information Today, Inc.


School of Library, archival and information studies, The University of British Columbia. Indexing resources on the WWW. Back-of-the-Book indexing.


Schütze, H. (1998). The Hypertext Concordance: A Better Back-of-the-Book Index. In Proceedings of Computerm '98 (Montreal, Canada, 1998), D. Bourigault, C. Jacquemin, and M.-C. L'Homme, Eds., pp. 101-104.


Stauber, D. M. (2004). Facing the text: Content and structure in book indexing. 1st ed. Eugene, Or.: Cedar Row Press.


Towery, M. (Ed.). (1998). Indexing Specialties: History. Medford, NJ :Information Today, Inc.


Wyman, L. P. (Ed.). (1999). Indexing Specialities: Medicine. Medford, NJ :Information Today, Inc.





See also: Concordance; Indexing



Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 02-10-2006