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indexes: scope and complexity

An index may be general or specific. A general one lists subjects, authors, persons or corporate bodies, geographical names and other items. A specific index is limited to a particular category of entry, such as one of the items in the above list, abbreviations and acronyms, or citations.

A work may contain a general index and one or more specific indexes. The Dictionary of Canadian Biography, for example, has three: an index of identifications (occupational sectors of the persons listed), a geographical index and an index of names. Multiple listings are designed to help readers research a particular aspect of the subject concerned.

The complexity of indexing has led to the development of a number of computerized indexing methods. But human intervention is still required for hierarchical arrangement, alphabetization, choice of terms, word order, capitalization and cross-referencing.