The purpose of this study was to assess the back of the book indexes in Natural Science books published in Nigeria. But the specific objectives of the study were to determine: how  indexes are provided in the Natural Science texts sampled; the extent to which basic indexing elements are provided; the depth of indexing; the filing and arrangement pattern of the index entries and finally, if differences exist in the indexes of secondary school texts and tertiary/general Science books. Four research questions guided the study, and a structured checklist was adopted and used to obtain information to answer the research questions. A descriptive design using document examination was adopted for this research. The researcher used the accidental sampling technique to sample books in the Natural Sciences. All the books published in the Natural Sciences in Nigeria within the period 1990 – 2010 constituted the population of the study. Sixty books were sampled, 35 of which had indexes, while 25 of them had no index. The data collected were organized in tables and analyzed, using simple percentages, frequencies and histogram. The findings revealed that: many Nigerian published books in the Natural Sciences lack back-of-the-book indexes; most index entries lack sub-headed entries and semantic relationship; cross-references – ‘see’ and ‘see also’ were very few; the filing order and arrangement patterns of the index entries were in line with international standards and no outstanding differences were found in the indexes of secondary school texts and tertiary /general Science books. In view of these findings, the study recommends that book publication in Nigeria should be assessed and controlled. Nigerian Information professionals should set up standard indexing outfits to be manned by professional indexers who should handle book indexing in Nigeria; public enlightenment programmes should be carried out by information scientists from time to time to enlighten publishers and authors on the importance of indexing in their work. Finally, further research in this area of study was suggested by the researcher.




Background of the Study

The concept of book is derived from an early English word boc, which means tablet or written sheets. A book consists of written or printed sheets of paper or some other material fastened together along one edge so it can be opened at any point. Most books have protective cover. According to Ellenbogen (2004) Books are inexpensive and convenient way to store, transport, and find knowledge and information. There are different forms of books, namely, story books, textbooks, workbooks, comic books, novels, almanacs, dictionaries, encyclopedia, telephone books, etc. But the Natural Science books and the general Science books or general non-fiction fall under the category of books regarded as textbooks

The Natural Science is a systematized body of knowledge based on observation and experimentation. It deals with the phenomena of the universe and its laws – physical and natural. This branch of study is especially distinguished from the arts due to its empirical method of enquiry. The subject disciplines studied under natural science include: Physics-(Phy), Astronomy-(Astr), Chemistry-(Chem), Biology-(Biol), Geology-(Geol), Paleontology-(Paleo), Zoology-(Zoo), Botany-(Bot) and Microbiology-(MCB); ( LCSH:  Schedule, 1996).

With information explosion, (i.e. an extensive increment in the field of knowledge and knowledge output in different disciplines) especially in the Natural Sciences and their concomitant complex concepts; compounded with the increasing reservoir of both books and non-books (that is, on-line documents) that contain the information in demand, information retrieval has become a daunting problem.  In fact, not only is information retrieval becoming more problematic by the day, but the retrieval systems are also becoming complex too. Hence, the emphasis is the need for information retrieval systems that will match the retrieval need of information documents by end users.

Thus, Lancaster (1991) and Chowdhury (2004) have identified a number of information retrieval subsystems namely: document subsystem, indexing sub-system, user-interface and matching sub-system. However, among these subsystems only the indexing sub-system can adequately perform an effective retrieval operation. An indexing system, as observed by Lahtinen (2000) is a set of prescribed procedures (manual/or machine) for organizing contents of records of knowledge for purposes of retrieval and dissemination of information. This is done by organizing an appropriate guide call index into a database.

Indexes are extracted words and phrases joined together, and structurally designed to make searching through millions of pages very fast. (Croft, 2004). The British Standards Institute (BSI 3700: 1988) describes an index as a systematic guide to the text of any reading matter or to the contents of  a collected documentary material comprising a series of entries with headings arranged in an alphabetical order, or any other chosen order and with references to show where each item indexed is located. The extracted words and phrases which form the index entries, as pointed out by Croft, are not just a list of words but serve as organized maps and guide through the several pages of a text. Mulvany’s (1994) definition that seems to sum up the others, stated that, an index is a structured sequence – resulting from a thorough and complete analysis of the text—of synthesized access points to all the information contained in the text. The structured arrangement of the index enables users to locate information efficiently. Perhaps, this is why Walls (2009) has also likened it to a complete body x-ray – an abbreviated, in-depth view of every important topic and sub-topic, along with locators guiding the reader to the actual pages for quick, deeper inspection of critical areas.

It is perhaps for this reason that Olason (2000) also concluded that the primary purpose of an index is to support the user in practical application of knowledge. It does this by providing the most efficient access map to information – or data plus context – embedded in the material. It is therefore pertinent to add here that an index is not only a guide but a search tool and a mirror that gives at-a-glance view into the body of a document.

Indexes are therefore very important tool in information retrieval, for they help to ease off the stress involved in research, by providing easy access to information resources. This is particularly so for a good quality and effective index which searches for pertinent data and ignores the irrelevant ones. In other words, a good index distinguishes between substantial (significant) and insignificant (i.e. one-time mentioned) information. At the same time, it can provide some terminologies not explicitly present in the text (Lukon, 2004). Accordingly, fruitful literature search is guided by the index. This is because it enables the reader to achieve direct information retrieval with minimal or no strain at all. An effective index also leads the user to all the pertinent information on a given topic in the work or works indexed (Knight 1979).  Furthermore, indexes have been observed to contribute significantly to works of knowledge or imagination (Afolabi, & Daudu, 1994).  Indexes provide a gateway to the author’s ideas and serve as a road-map to the contents of a book. In other words, an index, as an information retrieval system, serves as a bridge between the world of creators or generators of information (i.e. authors) and those of the users of that information, i.e. the end users. Also, a good index can give the author a new perspective on the effectiveness of his/her presentation (Osgood, 2008). According to Pyne (2007), the quality of an index also affects marketability of non-fiction books. In other words, high quality index promotes the marketability of such books, while poor quality index or even absence of it has a reverse effect.

In fact, poor quality index does not, unfortunately, provide the easy and fast access they are expected to give. Rather, they are either too scanty or too lengthy and clumsy and seem to rewrite the book itself. A lengthy index could force the user to study the index structure before proceeding to the main work. As Knight has argued, if an index cannot lead its user to the information sought for, or omits and fails to point out information not suited to the user’s needs, the index has failed its purpose.   This sort of situation often is frustrating to the user of the index. Inadequate or poor quality index makes retrieval of specific information very difficult. It also makes the work of librarians who deal with users’ queries and constantly make use of indexes to trace information in a text less effective (Lancaster 1991).

However, with the functions of indexes indicated above, arise their relevance or necessity. Indeed, the usefulness of an index is too central to be overlooked. This is why experts lay stress on this matter. For instance, Knight (1979) suggests that any publication beyond the size of a pamphlet is incomplete if a full index is not added to that publication. Also, Preschel (1981) in Lancaster, 1991), in discussing the issue of indexable documents stressed that,

All text information of a substantive nature should be indexed. ‘Substantive’ is here defined as information that covers 8-10 text lines or that is unique or outstanding and will almost certainly not occur elsewhere in the encyclopedia.  P13.

Due to the importance of book indexes, publishers, authors, critics and indexers are generally agreed that certain classes of books must be indexed. These may include text books, in all fields of knowledge, and at all levels of academic pursuits, (Afolabi & Daudu, 1994).

Unfortunately, in spite of these admonitions, guidelines, suggestions and agreement, serious indexing lapses have been observed in many a text. Publishers and authors have been known to neglect to add index to some of their books. When this happens, most information in such books become difficult to access quickly and so is easily forgotten. Such books are often held in low esteem by users. Suffice it to add that, it is not only the absence of an index that may cause a text to be held in low esteem but poor quality of the index could make the text unpopular because it lacks a good and concise index. This is why Bella (1996) has stressed the need for indexes to be as precise and direct to the point as possible. In this regard, he argued that the system that meets the basic criterion of satisfying the reader’s need is the Back-of-the-Book (BOB) index; which has a simple structure and provides access to natural language terms. (This is an index term that uses direct language of the document)

The Book Index, also known as the back-of-the-book index, (BOB refers to the content summary at the back of non- fiction books. The BOB is a type of printed index that offers ready access to items of information in a book. Entries may be the names of persons, corporate bodies, places or concepts to represent subjects, (Tulic, 2008), followed by page numbers on which information is to be found. Terms must reflect the contents of the book and vary from one book to another (Rowley, 1992).  Though other indexes abound, the researcher is paying particular attention to back-of-the-book index, also call “BOB” because of its variations in style of indexing; and its usefulness in providing access points to important information in a book document, particularly its use in the provision of access points to information in natural science books, which often have complex concepts.

From the on-going, discourse, BOB index is a unique information retrieval system which may vary in design and style according to the indexer. But no matter the variations and styles employed, the critical thing is that the whole essence of indexing is observed. That is to provide access to bibliographic information; using basic indexing elements or variables, and making the index as simple and straight to the point as possible. Some of these indexing elements or variables for back-of-the-book indexes include: Scope Note, Heading (indexing word or phrase), Sub-headings, Control Devices- Locators and Cross references,  Index Density, Arrangement/ Filing Order, Physical Appearance, etc. The use of any of the listed characteristics depends on the choice of the indexer and is acceptable as long as they conform to global standards and are approved by standard bodies such as American National Standard Institute (ANSI, 1984) and British Standards (BS: 37OO, 1988) that moderate indexing standards. The above listed basic indexing elements or criteria are also used to analyze and evaluate or assess the quality and effectiveness of an index in information retrieval.


Statement of Problem

It is common knowledge that, one of the qualities of a good book is the availability of quality back-of-the-book index. This facilitates access to/retrieval of specific information within the document. And by so doing, helps to ease off the stress involved in research by enabling direct information retrieval, with minimal or no strain.

From the perspective of information retrieval, a book without an index is more difficult to use than another that has an index. Also, such book may be seen as being of inferior quality to another that has an index. (Daudu & Afolabi, 1994). This is because retrieval of specific information in such a book/document is very difficult. Secondly, poor quality index, makes the use of such document less effective because of the inconveniences such poor index causes the user of the index.

Very little is known about the quality of indexes of books published in Nigeria, a fact recognized by some scholars such as Nwafor (1991). Who acknowledged that even the very little that is known, the quality of indexes of books published in Nigeria appears generally below acceptable standard. More so, not much is known about the indexes of Natural Science books that use a lot of scientific concepts.  The poser that this study is seeking to address is whether the quality of indexes of books published in Nigeria, particularly so, the Natural Science books, conforms to international standards. This study is being conducted to fill this gap in knowledge, by assessing the back-of-the-book indexes of Natural Science books published in Nigeria.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this work is to assess the quality of back- of- the book indexes of Natural Science books published in Nigeria. The study aims specifically to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Determine how BOB indexes are provided in Natural Science books published in Nigeria.
  2. Find out how basic indexing elements such as (i) Scope notes, (ii) Sub-headings, (iii) Control devices- locators and cross-references are provided in Natural Science books.
  3. Determine the average index densities of the various indexes.
  4. Establish the pattern of arrangements of the indexes
  5. Examine the differences that exist in the indexes of secondary school textbooks and those of tertiary/ general science books.

Research Questions

The study was guided by the following research questions.

  1. How are indexes provided to locally published books in the Natural Sciences?
  2. How are basic indexing elements provided in the BOB indexes in Natural Science books?
  3. What are the index densities of the indexes (i.e. the length statistics)?
  4. What are the patterns of arrangement of the index entries?

Significance of the Study

This work is expected to be beneficial to various groups of people. These include: Students, Lecturers, Authors, Indexers and Publishers. First, students of Library and Information Science are expected to find this work very helpful as a research material in their training as information scientists and future indexers. This is because the information in this work will make them to appreciate the important position of BOB index in a book and its usefulness. Second, lecturers and research fellows are also expected to find the work useful as reference materials in their teaching and research. This may also serve as a stimulant to other future researchers for further work in this area of study.

            Thirdly, it is hoped that through this work, Indexers, Authors and publishers would become more aware of the central place of a good index in the assessment of the quality of their products. This work should therefore, make such authors and publishers, to appreciate and understand the requirements and qualities of a good BOB indexes in their publications.


Scope of the Study

This work focuses on back-of-the-book indexes of books published in Nigeria, in the Natural Sciences. The work assessed the availability of BOB indexes in Nigerian published books in the Natural Sciences; and the quality of indexes of books in the various subject disciplines in Natural Science, using a checklist as an instrument for data collection. These subject disciplines include: Biology, Biochemistry, Botany, Chemistry, Geology, Mathematics, Microbiology, Physics, Zoology and General Science books in Natural Sciences. The study covered books for tertiary and secondary levels of our educational system in Natural Science within the period 1990 to 2010, available in libraries and bookshops in Enugu state. This work further tried to examine if differences exist in the indexes of secondary and tertiary/general science books.

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