Susannah Tredwell, librarian at Davies LLP in Vancouver and fellow member of CALL (Canadian Association of Law Libraries), wrote a piece last week on Slaw.ca about the continuing value of indexes
It is sometimes assumed that a book that is being read on an electronic device does not need an index, as readers can use the search function instead. Although word search is a useful tool, it does not replace the index, since it fails to distinguish between irrelevant mentions of a word (e.g. “this chapter will not discuss SEARCHTERM”) and lengthy discussion of the subject (...)
There have been experiments in automated indexing, but these have not been as successful in producing indexes as those produced by humans. Human indexers are still better at understanding how readers look for information, and how the various terms used relate to each other.
A poor index (or no index at all) impedes the research process. Giving the increasing number of e-books out there, publishers may think that they can omit the index as it is no longer necessary, but, as has been mentioned above, this is not the case. The index remains a valuable tool for researchers no matter what the format of the publication.
The blog on the SOQUIJ site (the public sector Société québécoise d'information juridique) noticed Tredwell's Slaw post
, adding that the principles she outlines also apply to the classification plans, taxonomies or indexes of legal research databases:
"Les moteurs de recherche permettent certes de repérer tous les documents où le mot recherché est utilisé. Toutefois, un travail d’analyse, d’indexation et d’uniformisation par des juristes spécialisés garantit une recherche intelligente, qui couvre les documents où des synonymes et des concepts similaires sont utilisés et où les documents les plus pertinents sont mis en vedette."
Ain't that the truth. Quality resources will always have some form of professional indexing.
Labels: databases, legal publishers, legal research and writing