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The purpose of this study was to assess the back of the book indexes in Natural Science books published in Nigeria. But the specific objectives of the study were to determine: how indexes are provided in the Natural Science texts sampled; the extent to which basic indexing elements are provided; the depth of indexing; the filing and arrangement pattern of the index entries and finally, if differences exist in the indexes of secondary school texts and tertiary/general Science books. Four research questions guided the study, and a structured checklist was adopted and used to obtain information to answer the research questions. A descriptive design using document examination was adopted for this research. The researcher used the accidental
sampling technique to sample books in the Natural Sciences. All the books published in the Natural Sciences in Nigeria within the period 1990 – 2010 constituted the population of the study. Sixty books were sampled, 35 of which had indexes, while of them had no index. The data collected were organized in tables and analyzed, using  simple percentages, frequencies and histogram. The findings revealed that: many Nigerian published books in the Natural Sciences lack back-of-the-book indexes; most index entries lack sub-headed entries and semantic relationship; cross-references– ‘see’ and ‘see also’ were very few; the filing order and arrangement patterns of the index entries were in line with international standards and no outstanding differences were found in the indexes of secondary school texts and tertiary /general Science books. In view of these findings, the study recommends that book publication in Nigeria should be assessed and controlled. Nigerian Information professionals should set up standard indexing outfits to be manned by professional indexers who should handle book indexing in Nigeria; public enlightenment programmes should be carried out by information scientists from time to time to enlighten publishers and authors on the importance of indexing in their work. Finally, further research in this area of study
was suggested by the researcher. 


Background of the Study

The concept of book is derived from an early English word boc, which means tablet or written sheets. A book consists of written or printed sheets of
paper or some other material fastened together along one edge so it can be opened at any point. Most books have protective cover. According to
Ellenbogen (2004) Books are inexpensive and convenient way to store, transport, and find knowledge and information. There are different forms of
books, namely, story books, textbooks, workbooks, comic books, novels, almanacs, dictionaries, encyclopedia, telephone books, etc.

But the Natural Science books and the general Science books or general non-fiction fall under the category of books regarded as textbooks The Natural Science is a systematized body of knowledge based on observation and experimentation. It deals with the phenomena of the universe and its laws – physical and natural. This branch of study is especially distinguished from the arts due to its empirical method of enquiry. The subject disciplines studied under natural science include: Physics-(Phy), Astronomy- (Astr), Chemistry-(Chem), Biology-(Biol), Geology-(Geol), Paleontology- (Paleo), Zoology-(Zoo), Botany-(Bot) and Microbiology-(MCB); ( LCSH: Schedule, 1996).
With information explosion, (i.e. an extensive increment in the field of knowledge and knowledge output in different disciplines) especially in the
Natural Sciences and their concomitant complex concepts; compounded with the increasing reservoir of both books and non-books (that is, on-line
documents) that contain the information in demand, information retrieval has become a daunting problem. In fact, not only is information retrieval
becoming more problematic by the day, but the retrieval systems are also becoming complex too. Hence, the emphasis is the need for information
retrieval systems that will match the retrieval need of information documents by end users.


Thus, Lancaster (1991) and Chowdhury (2004) have identified a number of information retrieval subsystems namely: document subsystem, indexing
sub-system, user-interface and matching sub-system. However, among these subsystems only the indexing sub-system can adequately perform an effective retrieval operation. An indexing system, as observed by Lahtinen (2000) is a set of prescribed procedures (manual/or machine) for organizing contents of records of knowledge for purposes of retrieval and dissemination of information. This is done by organizing an appropriate guide call index into a database.
Indexes are extracted words and phrases joined together, and structurally designed to make searching through millions of pages very fast. (Croft, 2004).
The British Standards Institute (BSI 3700: 1988) describes an index as a systematic guide to the text of any reading matter or to the contents of a
collected documentary material comprising a series of entries with headings arranged in an alphabetical order, or any other chosen order and with
references to show where each item indexed is located.

The extracted words and phrases which form the index entries, as pointed out by Croft, are not just a list of words but serve as organized maps and guide through the several pages of a text. Mulvany’s (1994) definition that seems to sum up the others, stated that, an index is a structured sequence – resulting from a thorough and complete analysis of the text—of synthesized access points to all the information contained in the text. The structured arrangement of the index enables users to locate information efficiently.

Perhaps, this is why Walls (2009) has also likened it to a complete body x-ray – an abbreviated, in-depth view of every important topic and sub-topic, along with locators guiding the reader to the actual pages for quick, deeper inspection of critical areas. It is perhaps for this reason that Olason (2000) also concluded that the primary purpose of an index is to support the user in practical application of knowledge. It does this by providing the most efficient access map to information – or data plus context – embedded in the material. It is therefore pertinent to add here that an index is not only a guide but a search tool and a mirror that gives at-a-glance view into the body of a document.
Indexes are therefore very important tool in information retrieval, for they help to ease off the stress involved in research, by providing easy access to information resources. This is particularly so for a good quality and effective index which searches for pertinent data and ignores the irrelevant
ones. In other words, a good index distinguishes between substantial (significant) and insignificant (i.e. one-time mentioned) information. At the
same time, it can provide some terminologies not explicitly present in the text (Lukon, 2004). Accordingly, fruitful literature search is guided by the index.
This is because it enables the reader to achieve direct information retrieval with minimal or no strain at all.

An effective index also leads the user to all the pertinent information on a given topic in the work or works indexed (Knight 1979). Furthermore, indexes have been observed to contribute significantly to works of knowledge or imagination (Afolabi, & Daudu, 1994). Indexes provide a gateway to the author’s ideas and serve as a road-map to the contents of a book. In other words, an index, as an information retrieval system, serves as a bridge between the world of creators or generators of information (i.e. authors) and those of the users of that information, i.e. the end users. Also, a good index can give the author a new perspective on the effectiveness of his/her presentation (Osgood, 2008). According to Pyne (2007), the quality of an index also affects marketability of non-fiction books. In other words, high quality index promotes the marketability of such books, while poor quality index or even absence of it has a reverse effect.
In fact, poor quality index does not, unfortunately, provide the easy and fast access they are expected to give. Rather, they are either too scanty or too lengthy and clumsy and seem to rewrite the book itself. A lengthy index could force the user to study the index structure before proceeding to the main work. As Knight has argued, if an index cannot lead its user to the information sought for, or omits and fails to point out information not suited to the user’s needs, the index has failed its purpose. This sort of situation often is frustrating to the user of the index. Inadequate or poor quality index makes retrieval of specific information very difficult. It also makes the work of librarians who deal with users’ queries and constantly make use of indexes to trace information in a text less effective (Lancaster 1991).
However, with the functions of indexes indicated above, arise their relevance or necessity. Indeed, the usefulness of an index is too central to be
overlooked. This is why experts lay stress on this matter. For instance, Knight (1979) suggests that any publication beyond the size of a pamphlet is
incomplete if a full index is not added to that publication. Also, Preschel (1981) in Lancaster, 1991), in discussing the issue of indexable documents stressed that,


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