Index Term

An index term, subject term, subject heading, or descriptor, in information retrieval, is a term that captures the essence of the topic of a document. Index terms make up a controlled vocabulary for use in bibliographic records. They are an integral part of bibliographic control, which is the function by which libraries collect, organize and disseminate documents. They are used as keywords to retrieve documents in an information system, for instance, a catalog or a search engine. A popular form of keywords on the web are tags which are directly visible and can be assigned by non-experts. Index terms can consist of a word, phrase, or alphanumerical term. They are created by analyzing the document either manually with subject indexing or automatically with automatic indexing or more sophisticated methods of keyword extraction. Index terms can either come from a controlled vocabulary or be freely assigned.

Keywords are stored in a search index. Common words like articles (a, an, the) and conjunctions (and, or, but) are not treated as keywords because it's inefficient. Almost every English-language site on the Internet has the article "the", and so it makes no sense to search for it. The most popular search engine, Google removed stop words such as "the" and "a" from its indexes for several years, but then re-introduced them, making certain types of precise search possible again.

The term "descriptor" was coined by Calvin Mooers in 1948. It is in particular used about a preferred term from a thesaurus.

The Simple Knowledge Organization System language (SKOS) provides a way to express index terms with Resource Description Framework for use in the context of Semantic Web.[1]

In web search engines

Most web search engines are designed to search for words anywhere in a document--the title, the body, and so on. This being the case, a keyword can be any term that exists within the document. However, priority is given to words that occur in the title, words that recur numerous times, and words that are explicitly assigned as keywords within the coding.[2] Index terms can be further refined using Boolean operators such as "AND, OR, NOT." "AND" is normally unnecessary as most search engines infer it. "OR" will search for results with one search term or another, or both. "NOT" eliminates a word or phrase from the search, getting rid of any results that include it. Multiple words can also be enclosed in quotation marks to turn the individual index terms into a specific index phrase. These modifiers and methods all help to refine search terms, to better maximize the accuracy of search results.[3]. Now in 2018, there is no requirement to mention meta keywords in coding but to have a simple group of words or phrases which searchers enter into search engines in to the webpage, and it is also called "search queries." such group of words must be in meta title, description and explicitly in the content of the page. Search engines crawlers consider the density of different type of phrases and show the results to the searchers. Here different kind of keywords or group or words used by the site owners to attract search engines to crawl.[4]

Author keywords

Author keywords are an integral part of literature.[1] Many journals and databases provide access to index terms made by authors of the respective articles. How qualified the provider is decides the quality of both indexer-provided index terms and author-provided index terms. The quality of these two types of index terms is of research interest, particularly in relation to information retrieval. In general, an author will have difficulty providing indexing terms that characterizes his or her document relative to other documents in the database.


See also


  1. ^ a b Svenonius, Elaine (2009). The intellectual foundation of information organization (1st MIT Press pbk. ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262512619.
  2. ^ Cutts, Matt. (2010, March 4). How search works. Retrieved from
  3. ^ CLIO. Keyword search. Columbia University Libraries. Retrieved from
  4. ^ CDM. What is a keyword in SEO. Concept Digital Marketing. Retrieved from

Further reading

  • Ferris, Anna M. (2018). "Birth of a Subject Heading". Library Resources & Technical Services. 62 (1): 16-27.

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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