Becoming an indexer 2: the Society of Indexers training course modules

Posted on: 17/11/2023

An open notebook with a pencil resting on top. On a desk with various office items and books in the background.
Photo credit: Ehécatl Cabrera, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Are you thinking about training as an indexer? This is the first of three blog posts that give an overview of the Society of Indexers training course. It gives an overview of the different elements of the course and describes the modules that deliver the theoretical content of the course.

About the training course

The SI training course is a self-study, distance learning course, run through the Society’s training website. You’ll study at your own pace which allows you to fit study around other professional and family commitments. The maximum time allowed for completion is four years, but depending on personal circumstances many students find that they can complete the course more quickly. The elements of the course are:

  • four modules covering the theoretical elements of indexing with graded assessment on the first and last module
  • practice exercises to consolidate the learning of theory
  • three indexing assignments with individual feedback from an experienced indexer
  • three online tutorials led by an experienced indexer
  • an online workshop on e-Book and embedded indexing
  • a final non-assessed pre-qualification indexing assignment (PIA) creating an index to a full-length book

In this post, we’re focusing on the four course modules and how they are assessed.

What you’ll need

As well as the time to complete the modules, assessments and tutorials, you’ll need a computer to access the training course website and complete the modules and assessments. The online tutorials are run as asynchronous email discussion groups and feedback on assessments is sent via email.

Indexing software is not essential, although it is very useful in the later stages of the course – and it’s useful to try out all the different software packages available while you’re a student member.

The modules

The theoretical content of the course is taught through four modules delivered through an online training platform. In addition to the course text, students complete online quizzes as part of each module. Once a module has been completed, a student can apply to take the assessment or assignment appropriate for that module. Tutor feedback is delivered through graded assessment papers following the first and final modules and detailed formative feedback on indexing assignments following modules B and C. The modules are:

Module A: Introducing indexing

This module gives a thorough introduction to the indexing process, explaining terminology and the function and characteristics of indexes. It takes a look at the people behind the indexes, reviewing the functions and mutual relationships among indexers, users and authors. It also outlines the many different types of documents produced and how they are categorized, and shows how indexes are compiled and bibliographic references are created. At the end of Module A, there is an assessment which you must pass before progressing to the next module.

You can buy and start Module A without becoming a member of the Society. You will get a month’s access to the training site; after this time you will need to join and become a member of the Society to continue to study.

Module B: Choosing the words: term selection and the formation and arrangement of headings and subheadings

In Module B, you will receive detailed guidance on how to identify and select topics for indexing, within a document, how to identify different kinds and forms of heading, how to construct headings and subheadings, and how to use cross-references.

At the end of module B there is a non-assessed assignment; a course tutor will review this, and give you detailed formative feedback that will help you as you progress to Module C.

Module C: Names and number: filing order, proper names and locators

This module explains the different ways in which index entries can be arranged as well as the use of multiple index sequences. The often tricky matter of dealing with names is covered in detail, and you’ll learn the various ways of dealing with page numbers.

Module C has two non-assessed assignments which you’ll complete before progressing to Module D.  Again, these are reviewed by a course tutor who will give you detailed formative feedback.

Module D: Finishing touches and beyond

Module D covers the differences between various types of indexing (books, journals and websites) and also introduces eBook and embedded indexing – there’s an additional workshop on this that goes into this in much more detail. Also in Module D, you’ll learn how indexes can be presented and laid out in line with client requirements.  You’ll also learn about specialized forms and applications of indexing including thesaurus construction, team and cumulative indexing.

Module D incorporates two assessment papers, one theoretical and one practical, which you must pass before you move on to the pre-qualification indexing assignment. Students preparing for the module D practical assessment can also get additional support through an optional indexing assignment, which offers an opportunity to receive feedback on an index to a 90-page document.

Finding out more

To learn more about the training course, visit the SI training course overview page to read more about it, see a sample of Module A, and details of the costs involved.

About the authors

Rachel Gee is the Society of Indexers’ Training Director and has been indexing professionally since 2011. Kim Birchall has been an indexer since 2008 and is the Training Course Co-ordinator. Tanya Izzard has been indexing full-time since 2017 and is the Marketing Director of SI.

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