Indexing and Abstracting in Theory and Practice (3rd ed.)

Gobinda Chowdhury (University of Stratchlyde, United Kingdom

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 August 2004




Chowdhury, G. (2004), "Indexing and Abstracting in Theory and Practice (3rd ed.)", The Electronic Library, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 364-365.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The first edition of this book appeared in 1991, and since then it has been widely used as a textbook in information science schools all over the world. The first edition received the Best Information Science Book award from the American Society of Information Science. The second edition of the book that appeared in 1998 included some new chapters in order to cover the emerging topics of the period such as the Internet and indexing and abstracting of multimedia information. In the present third edition, some of the earlier chapters in the book remained almost unchanged while chapters 13‐17 have been substantially revised and rewritten.

The book has 19 chapters presented in two parts, followed by two appendices, and a 40‐page list of references containing about 800 entries. The 17 well‐written chapters of the book cover all aspects of indexing and abstracting ranging from the basic principles to the modern developments in the Internet era. In addition, there are two chapters, presented in part 2 – practice, that provide a number of exercises on indexing and abstracting. The text has been illustrated by as many as 115 figures that are listed at the beginning of the book. The book also includes an author‐subject index.

Information retrieval is an area of study that has attracted experts from many different fields, and this has become prominent over the past few years especially after the emergence of the Internet and the Web. The downside of this as been that on many occasions researchers from fields other than library and information sciences are often not aware of the rich tradition and practices of the field developed by library and information scientists over the years. At the beginning of his book Lancaster discusses this and provides some interesting examples to illustrate how some researchers try to reinvent the wheel because of their lack of knowledge of the developments in the field of library and information science. This is certainly an interesting and enlightening reading for the new as well as practising library and information professionals.

Chapter 1 of the book provides an introduction to the concepts of indexing and abstracting, and it describes the role of these two important activities in the context of an information retrieval system. Most of the discussions on indexing and abstracting in the earlier chapters of the book focus on the human processes and the intellectual aspects of the processes of indexing and abstracting. Chapters 2 to 6 cover different aspects of indexing including the basic principles, the quality and the various types of indexing. Chapters 7 and 8 cover discussions on abstracts while chapter 9 covers the evaluation of indexes and abstracts. Chapter 10 discusses the various approaches to implementation of printed indexing and abstracting services in an organisation. Chapter 11 discusses some advanced features of indexing such as the weighting of indexing terms, etc. Chapter 12 discusses the issues and problems of indexing and abstracting of imaginative works such as fiction and feature films.

Chapter 13 discusses indexing of images and sounds – the keyword‐based as well as the content‐based approaches. Chapter 14 reviews the relative merits of natural language and controlled vocabulary indexing, and chapter 15 covers automatic indexing and abstracting. Chapter 16 discusses the various aspects of indexing of information resources on the Internet. The future of indexing and abstracting and the emerging trends are discussed in chapter 17. Overall the focus of this book is on the intellectual aspects of indexing and abstracting which is largely based on human expertise, and the author predicts that it will be a very long time before machines can completely, if at all, replace humans for accomplishing the intellectual activities involved in indexing and abstracting. The text of the book is supported by very good references from old as well as new literature.

While many books have been written in the recent past especially on automated indexing and abstracting of text, and also on the automated indexing of the Internet and multimedia information, Lancaster's third edition of Indexing and Abstracting in Theory and Practice will remain an authoritative book for library and information science students and professionals for its unique emphasis on, and coverage of, the human and intellectual aspects of the processes of indexing and abstracting.

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