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Online tutorial report: SIOT-22

Eight of us signed up for this tutorial at the beginning of 2016. For some, including myself, this was our first tutorial, a few others had done one before; our levels of progress through the SI course ranged from mid module B to D. So there was a range of experience amongst the participants, which did emerge in our different attempts at an index!

After some initial introductions and an overview of how things would proceed from our tutor, Jan Worrall, we were sent the text to be indexed. The timetable was to be two weeks for creating our indexes and two weeks for guided discussions. I thought we might be helping each other during the indexing process through the discussion forum set up for us but it emerged we were going to be doing this independently. This made perfect sense when explained, since it was going to prove useful (and fascinating) to compare our efforts and be able to focus on our individual approaches in the second half of the tutorial.

The booklet we were indexing was one on the health benefits of cycling, so accessible and interesting and containing a wide range of topics for us to analyse and attempt to represent in our indexes. I admit I had a slight advantage in having a partner working in public health, who could represent the viewpoint of one of the target audiences of the work!

For me and, based on the feedback, for others too, the requirement to index an actual publication to a deadline was one of the key aspects of the tutorial, giving us a taste of real-life indexing. Although we were only indexing about 30 pages of text, the two-week deadline felt about right: long enough to allow us time to complete it but short enough so that we had to make an effort to fit it in amongst other commitments. In fact, I found I had only left myself the final weekend to do all my checking and editing, which I now realise wasn’t long enough!

We all sent in our attempts on time, which were forwarded to the others through the mailing list. It was very interesting to look through our different versions and a relief to see that others had had the same problems in selecting terms, subheadings and references.

The second half of the tutorial consisted of discussions around three topics: term selection, cross-references and subheadings. Each topic was clearly explained and we were given a number of questions to consider, making us go back over our thought processes in generating our indexes and considering what we were happy with and what we might have done differently. Some questions required us to go back over particular sections of modules A and B that Jan listed. We had three days to get back to the list with our responses for each topic. Everyone replied on time but I did think there was less actual discussion among the group than I had expected.

Jan did a very good job of summarising the responses to each topic and always provided clear and useful answers to the questions we raised. We were also able to bring up any other indexing-related questions we had.

We finally got a chance to see Jan’s own version of an index for our booklet at the end of the four weeks. My own feeling at the end of the tutorial was that I was heartened my index was no worse than anybody else’s although seeing Jan’s, that I still had a long way to go, especially in term selection! But overall I felt I learned a lot from the experience and am encouraged to continue with the course. I will look forward to the next tutorial when I’ve made some headway with Module C!

Phil Cross