ASI Online Learning Replay: How to Create Brilliantly Structured Indexes: A Metatopic- and Pan-Granular-Based Process

How to Create Brilliantly Structured Indexes: A Metatopic- and Pan-Granular-Based Process


Three-Part Series with Fred Leise


Designed for indexers of all experience levels, including advanced indexers, this three-session course (each session is 60 minutes in length) focuses on the rarely discussed topic of index structure.

Index structure can make or break the usability of an index, and many indexers often spend inordinate amounts of time during the indexing and editing process revising and reworking their existing index structure. This course provides a nearly foolproof process for creating a brilliantly structured index from the ground up.

The course focuses the discussion of index structure using the lens of two important concepts: the metatopic and granularity. After a thorough exploration of those two topics, the course provides a detailed process using both “structural” and “textual” indexing to create highly structured indexes that mirror the structure of the text.

Session 1: “Well Structured Indexes”

The first session explores well structured indexes: why they are important and how they serve the reader by increasing index usability. It next covers the concept of granularity, the level of detail of index entries, using Ray and Charles Eames’s famous short film “Powers of 10,” as a model.
The session touches on the contextual nature of granularity and then moves to a definition and description of a term new to indexing: “pan-granularity.” Finally, pan-granularity is examined in a parallel relationship to the concept of index structure.

Session 2: “Metatopics, and Structural and Textual Indexing”

The second session begins with the important topic of handling the metatopic. Critical thinking on this issue has changed significantly in the past five years. No longer is the metatopic entry either a collection of miscellaneous entries that don’t fit elsewhere or close to non-existent; rather the metatopic entry should provide readers with a complete, high level map to the primary topics of the text; the metatopic entry is often where users begin their exploration of the index.

Next we explore two basic ways of indexing. Structural (top-down) indexing uses the structure of the text to create the metatopic entry and other major structures of the index. We look at its components, benefits, and use in parallel index structures. Textual (bottom-up) indexing covers the more granular types of index entries. We explore the three types of textual index entries. Finally, the session discusses the pan-granular hierarchies that are present in all well structured indexes.

Session 3: The Brilliantly Structured Indexing Process

The core of this series, the final session provides a detailed, seven-step process for creating highly structured indexes: (1) Metatopic entry, (2) Chapter-level headings, (3) Chapter sections as subheadings, (4) Chapter sections as main headings, (5) Chapter section/subsection entries, (6) Chapter sub-sections as headings, (7) Textual entries.

Finally, we end with a discussion of specificity in indexing and how it fits with the previously discussed concept of granularity.


Because each class is loaded with so much information, all sessions will be recorded and will be available for registrants to revisit as often as desired.

My goal for this series is that you will have learned and will be able to use this detailed process to create brilliantly structured indexes from the ground up. You’ll save indexing time and editing time, since you will have little need to continually restructure the index as you move through the text. In short, you’ll be a better, more efficient indexer.

Please note: Attendance at the live sessions is not required. Registration entitles you to “on demand” access to the course and unlimited repeat viewings after the initial sessions have aired.

Fred Leise
After a twenty-five year career in arts management, Fred Leise started his indexing career with the University of Chicago Publishing Program introduction to indexing course in 1993. Since 1995, he has been indexing nearly continuously (with time out for taxonomy consulting), specializing in scholarly works in international relations, cultural and political history, and landscape studies.

He is a founding member of the Institute of Certified Indexers, an instructor for the University of California, Berkeley Extension Division online indexing course, and has served several terms on ASI’s board of directors, of which he is currently Immediate Past President.

He regularly presents at both national and chapter events and has written a number of articles on various aspects of indexing for both Key Words and The Indexer. His article on Sherlock Holmes as indexer appeared in the fall 2013 issue of the Baker Street Journal.

The online learning classes were originally produced November 3, 10, and 17, 2016

ASI members, please log in to the website for member pricing.

The 3-part class is $349 for non-members, and you will have long-term access to the replays.

After you purchase the class, return to this page, refresh your screen, and watch the three replays immediately. You will also find three handouts that accompany the presentations.

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