What is an index?

What Does Index Mean

We explain what an index is, what its characteristics are and what it is for. Also, how to make an index in Microsoft Word.

An index is a common section in books, monographs and other publications

What is an index?

In very basic terms, an index is a usual section in books, monographs and other similar publications, which consists of a list of phrases or headings that represent certain contents of the text , together with their corresponding page . It is, therefore, a hierarchical guide to the content of the book, which is offered to the reader at the beginning or end of the document.


The most common of the indexes, generally, are composed of the chapters or sections of the document, identified with their respective titles (or simply as "chapter I", "chapter II", etc.), and sometimes including their subdivisions ( subtitles) to some extent.

However, it is possible to make indexes oriented to other types of information , such as important terms, figures and graphics, annexes , or even bibliographic material . Be that as it may, the important thing is that every index must be organized and hierarchical, since it is a quick reference tool .

It is common to find indexes in all types of books and documents, mainly those that have a higher level of complexity or that are aimed at a technical or highly specialized audience. Or in those, also, that by their nature require a schematic reference to their content, such as books of reproductions of works of art , or anthologies whose content is logically diverse.

Obviously, we should not confuse this meaning of the word index with others that are synonymous with "indicator", "indication" or "meter", and that are applied in disciplines such as linguistics , economics , and so on.

Also: Elements of a monograph

What is an index for?

The indexes are a kind of map of the text: they serve to guide the reader, to indicate which page to go to depending on what they are looking for , especially when it comes to reference books, which are not intended to be read from the beginning to the end. final, like an atlas or encyclopedia.

But even in more conventional texts, an index is a necessary kindness to the reader, allowing them to quickly and easily locate the specific information they are looking for.

How to make an index in Microsoft Word?

Steps to create an index in Word.

The popular Microsoft Word word processor has the ability to create an automated table of contents in any document, as long as we distinguish between titles and subtitles in such a way that the program is able to recognize them.

For this, it is ideal to use the options in the "Design" menu (which appear as "Title1", "Title2", etc.) in order to correctly rank our document. After we have coordinated all the text in this way, we must enter the corresponding page numbers in the "Insert" menu (subsection "Page number").

With the text coordinated and the page numbers added, you are all set to enter the automated index. In a final or initial white page (depending on our taste), we must look for the option "Table of contents" in the "References" menu , to display a set of automated options of content indexes. Among them we can choose the one we like the most, or proceed to personalize one at our whim.

Index types

The indexes can be of different types, depending on the type of information that they provide to the reader. Such as:

  • Contents index . This would be the “common” type of index, that is, the one that details the contents of a document, listing in hierarchical order its main titles or the titles of its chapters or sections (and sometimes their respective subtitles). Its appearance is something like this:

Preface p. 4

Chapter I p. 10

Chapter II p. 24

Chapter III p. Four. Five

Epilogue p. 56

  • Thematic or terminological index . This type of index focuses on specific terms that may be of interest to the reader, arranged alphabetically. It can also be a table of contents or table of contents, which allows us to go directly to specific mentions of a topic. They usually consist of something like this:

State, state: 4, 12, 15, 33.

failed: 4, 6, 12.

stroke of: 6, 7.

Political parties: 18, 19, 22, 29.

  • Onomastic index . It is an index of authors cited in the text, organized alphabetically according to their surnames and page number, so that you can go directly to the appointment in question. They look something like this:

De Rivera, Pedro: 14, 17, 35.

Destefano, Victoria: 3, 13.

Ebens, Mark: 22.

  • Bibliographic index . It is an index of bibliographic references, which allows the reader to find the texts used in the preparation of a text, generally those referenced inside, organized as they appear in it. They tend to look something like this:

Foucault, Michel

Watch and Punish (1975): 59, 75, 100.

History of sexuality (1976): 15, 20, 33.

Watson, Eudora

On becoming History (2001): 12, 17.

  • Annex index . They can also be indexes of graphics, figures or illustrations, it is an index that only points to the material attached to the text, that is, its support or accompanying material. They usually look something like this:

Figure 1. Immunotherapy graph in patients of the HB1 group p. fifteen

Figure 2. Immunotherapy graph in patients of the HB2 group p. 18

Figure 3. Mortality balance between patients in both groups p. 22

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