Wednesday, January 24, 2007

You know what bothers me as an academic? Indices or lack thereof. The hardest thing to do when you have read 200+ books and articles is to remember exactly where you read something. In the past, I used to just memorize everything that I read. This was useful in undergraduate to parry other people's arguments but in post-graduate, it is just not possible thus the need for indices. I can remember roughly a thought in a book that I have read by category but I need some help sorting out where in the book I had read it. Some academic books have fantastic indices but I have seen more than a few which have perfunctory offerings.

I was wondering while struggling with a couple today: why do these exist? I have found that the table of contents and index features of Word are a pain to use because you must use Word's numbering and bulleting feature which constantly fights with the user because it attempts to insert a number after every return which is not what the user wants. To get what you want, you must insert a section then use numbering and bulleting but most people do not want that so they just start doing it by hand (and even if you do it the correct way, Word will still fight with you over it). This makes creating indices difficult for the user which would mean that they would only want to do a perfunctory index.

On the other hand, there is the time involved in creating an index. At the end of a book project, you are usually exhausted and sick of the work so making an index at the end is the least of your concerns. Often, especially for thesis that are turned into books, it would be best to employ someone else to create the index for you but you are often too poor to employ someone to do that.

Also, I would love to see indices in academic journals as well. It would definitely help when someone is doing a quick search in a journal to see if a certain topic occurs. I would expect though with the advent of Google Book that it will become just that much more easy to do proper research and have the ability to find things more quickly. As far as I am concerned, Google Book will rock. Anyway, enough whining.

posted by Chris  #11:11 AM | 0 comments |