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An index is an alphabetical list which gives you access to something--the contents of a book or the contents an a collection of books or other material. A book's index is usually found at the end of the book and is an alphabetical list of the topics to be found in the book.

The next most common index is a periodical index. This is an alphabetical list of articles to be found in periodicals--often magazines or journals.

There are, of course, online indexes. But you should first familiarize yourself with the print indexes in the library. In the PAC library there are tables in the center of the first floor which contain all the print indexes. Indexes typically do not have a call number but are placed separately on tables or shelves in a special location in the library. Go to that area now and have a look.

Notice that each set of indexes is specialized--one set for literature, one for the social sciences, one for the hard sciences, one for agriculture, one for nursing, one for medicine, and so on.

Here is a typical listing in the Social Sciences Index:

Frank, Peter
      Gorbachev's dilemma: social justice or political instability? World Today 42:93-5 Je '86

What does this citation mean? Rather than tell you here, I want you to find the explanation in the volume you are looking at. Every index volume explains its unique citation system. In the Social Sciences Index I find that the explanation is in the front, on page viii. The page is titled "EXPLANATORY NOTES." Although this one does not, many indexes also have a picture, with arrows pointing to the different sections of the citation.

Notice that the listings are by author and by subject. When you look at the subject headings you will see one of the huge advantages of using a print index. The subjects are broken down for you... both all the subcategories of a subject as well as all the other possible terms used for that subject. For instance, if you look up HEALTH, you will see the following:

Health           See also
      Aged--Care and hygiene
      Alcoholics--Health and hygiene
      Appalachians--Health and hygiene
      Asians in Great Britain--Health and hygiene
      Blacks--Health and hygiene
      Blacks in Costa Rica--Health and hygiene
      Children--Care and hygiene

The list goes on for half a page. But you can see that if you are looking for a subcategory of a subject--ESPECIALLY if you are trying to narrow a research topic (hint, hint!), this is the place to come.

Notice that the SOCIAL SCIENCES INDEX has a list of abbreviations for journals in the front of each volume. Notice also that book reviews for the same period are listed in the back of each volume. Before leaving indexes, notice that indexes initially come out once a month in a paperback version. When the year is complete, they are then hard bound and numbered by year. The accepted method for doing research in print indexes is to begin with the most recent volumes and work backwards, looking up your subject in every volume until you have reached you objective (for instance, you may have decided to go back ten years in every source possible).

Take a walk through the index tables and notice what is there, both the subjects and the focuses of the different indexes. Notice particularly the BOOK REVIEW DIGEST. This is a particularly useful index for literary criticism students. Organized by the author being reviewed, the BOOK REVIEW DIGEST comes out every year and covers the reviews published that year. To find reviews of a particular work, you must first find out its copyright, or when it was published. Then look in that year's issue of the BOOK REVIEW DIGEST and the next year or two.

Finally, although not an index, you should note the presence on the index tables of the CORAL Union List of Serials. This lists all the serials (periodicals, magazines, journals, newspapers, etc.) carried by each library in the San Antonio area. This is a very important tool and you should know where it is located.

In the PAC library, also, you should be familiar with the fact that all indexes are not located at the index tables on the first floor. Some are located on the second floor, in the Information Concourse. Most notably the New York Times Index, the Wallstreet Journal Index, and several others are located on the second floor because that is where the microfilms and microfiches are located.

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Please send comments to: Colby Glass, MLIS

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