Metadata and indexing services

The technical services expertise available within the Cunningham Library includes

  • curation (monitoring, identification and selection) of research outputs for preparation of topical databases
  • metadata schema development
  • database design, construction and maintenance
  • thesaurus evaluation, construction and development
  • indexing, including the use of automatic classification technology
  • information dissemination using social media.

What is indexing?

Indexing is the process of reading and analysing textual or pictorial material to identify its key concepts and terms and then compiling a systematically arranged display of those terms. Terms typically include features like creator, title, date and subjects. These key concepts act as a summary of the full content for the information searcher.

Indexes can be created for books, articles, newspapers, pictures, maps, sound recordings, video, websites and databases, in either digital or printed formats. When content is indexed in online environments its findability is increased, amplifying its discoverability in search engines, or in specialist research databases.

The two main types of indexing are distinguished by whether the index terms and concepts are selected from a controlled vocabulary (for example, in database indexing) or supplied by the indexer in a as in back-of-book indexing or when ‘tagging’ content on social media.

Metadata is another expression used to describe the terms in an online index. It means ‘data about data’.

Controlled vocabularies provide terminology consistency and allow for thorough searching and retrieval of information. In controlled vocabularies multiple expressions of a concept are brought together under one heading. This enhances discoverability for information searchers across wider geographical areas (for example, what we refer to as ‘First year students’ in Australia are known as ‘Freshmen’ in the United States) and across periods of time (for example, searching for information on ‘Intellectual disability’ would also pick up information using the outdated term ‘Mental retardation’.

Freetext or uncontrolled assignment of indexing terms allows the indexer to reflect the voice and language of the author, creating an index that is tailored uniquely to the content.  On the downside, freetext indexing can result in the retrieval of too much irrelevant material.

Australian Education Index

The Cunningham Library established the Australian Education Index (AEI) in 1979. It now comprises more than 200,000 entries relating to educational research, policy and practice in Australia. This is an example of database indexing, using controlled vocabularies. In this case the Australian Thesaurus of Education Descriptors, also compiled by Cunningham Library staff, is used to source subject terms.

The Library curates three other specialist databases that emanate from the AEI

To discuss how our metadata and indexing services can assist you, contact library@acer.org