Indexing: An Essential Art and Science

An index to a non-fiction book is like a map: it informs the reader of what lies ahead and how to get there. This online course is designed for aspiring indexers and for editors who oversee and edit indexes. Through critiques of existing indexes in various documents (non-fiction books, technical manuals, and textbooks), course readings, forum discussions, and sofware demonstrations and practice, you will explore what constitutes a good index and how to create one efficiently. We will also cover the business of indexing, including finding and dealing with clients, networking, and pursuing opportunities for continuing education.


There are no academic prerequisites, but the following abilities are essential:

  • Good command of the English language
  • Ability to analyse text and extract the essential concepts that the author is trying to convey
  • Ability to summarize concepts
  • Ability to see relationships between concepts

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Online - Florian Ehrensperger $475.00 22 Register
Online - Audrey McClellan $475.00 25 Register

Instructional hours: 15

For online offerings, registration may close up to two business days before the course begins. Your course begins on the first date listed and ends six days after the last date listed. The interim dates/times are not your actual online class times.

What will I learn?

By the end of the course, you will be able to do the following:

  • Describe the elements of a good index
  • Explain why indexes are necessary
  • Use indexing vocabulary
  • Describe the purpose of style manuals, standards and reference books
  • Understand the advantages and uses of various index creation methods
  • Write a short index style guide
  • Describe the business aspect of indexing and how to market indexing services
  • Create a basic, back-of-the-book index in indented and run-in formats using two methods:
    • Microsoft Word's indexing module (embedding index tags in a Word file)
    • Standalone indexing software (your choice of CINDEX, MACREX or SKY)

How will I learn?

  • Online course material
  • Forum discussions
  • Independent assignments
  • Demonstrations
  • Exercises
  • Extra reading

How will I be evaluated?

Your grade will be based on the following:

  • Assignments (60%)
  • Quizzes/tests (30%)
  • Online participation (10%)

Textbooks and learning materials

You are responsible for purchasing the text, which is available in print and e-book formats. All other course materials will be provided online.

Required text:

The Indexing chapter of The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, 2010, University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-2268-36140. 

Alternatively, you may wish to download a free trial of the online Chicago Manual of Style.

Hardware and software requirements

  • CINDEX, MACREX or SKY demo software (available as free downloads during the course)

We deliver this course using SFU's online course management system, Canvas. You will receive course details and Canvas access instructions on the first day of the course. You can check if your browser is compatible with Canvas here.

Note: Please submit all assignments as PDF or Microsoft Word 2010 files.