Automated indexing: the key to information retrieval in the 21st century.

Author:Obaseki, Tony I.


Global changes in physical infrastructure, population, technological development, and climate have contributed to an information explosion. This is a major challenge to information managers, who are faced, not only with the challenge of selecting, acquiring, and storing the information, with the perennial problem of how to make it available to potential users quickly and easily.

The world is shifting from manual to automated practices. Information centers are following suit, paving way for automated acquisition, processing, and dissemination of information to clienteles. Indexing services may be the solution to providing current and reliable information to information seekers.

Indexing connotes the processes of creating an index. It is derived from the Latin root "mdicare," to point or indicate (Chakraborty and Chakrabarti 1983). Its current meaning has hardly changed from the initial meaning embedded in the root. An index is a means to an end and not the end itself.

An index could be said to be as old as human existence. It has been used to encompasses not only an index at the back of a book, but also calendars, tables catalogues, inventories, registers, summaries, and syllabi. Witty (1978) studied the evolution of indexing practices through the examination of indexes in two fourteenth century manuscripts, an incunabulum and a book printed in the sixteenth century. He discovered that early indexing practice created entries entered roughly alphabetically with key words in the index arranged alphabetically by the three initial letters.

The Case for Automated Indexing

Seth (2004) argues for the use of automated indexing because it is faster and cheaper. Seth asserts that this is one way of achieving the goals of information centers. This view is welcomed by numerous scholars, because automated indexing can deal with the increasing amount of new material being produced that has made manual indexing slow and expensive.

Automated indexing is the process of assigning and arranging index terms for natural language without human intervention (Tulic 2005). The index is produced using algorithms. These algorithms works on database containing document representations, inncluding full text or bibliographic records, but also on non-text data bases such as images or music.

Automated indexing is not new. Its earliest known forms include:

* KWIC (key word in context)

* KWAC (key word at context)

* KWOC (key word on context)

These are falling...

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