New England Chapter
American Society for Indexing
Peer Review Meetings
Peer review meetings are an opportunity for back-of-the-book indexers of various levels of experience to give and receive feedback on their indexes to improve the quality of their work. Indexers learn how to improve their indexing not only from receiving comments on their indexes but by reviewing other indexes.
NEASI holds occasional peer review meetings at various public library locations. Upcoming meetings are announced on the Events page.
Who can participate?
Both experienced and beginning indexers are welcome to participate, but we would expect that the beginners have at least completed some training in indexing. This is not for people who want to ìfind out what indexing is.
What kind of indexes can be submitted for review?
Back-of-the-book style indexes on all subjects are welcome. Moderately technical is OK, as long as it is not completely incomprehensible to most people. Indexes may be of any length, but an extremely long index may not get as complete feedback, due to limited time. In all cases, though, indexes should be complete. Index course assignments should not be submitted in the peer review. Indexes may be for practice or for client submission. Index files should be submitted in RTF format. The book text should not be submitted.
Must participants submit an index, and must index submitters be present at the meeting?
Ideally each participant submits an index. Indexers are welcome to participate in the review without submitting an index for review of their own, but we need a minimum number of indexes submitted to hold the review. If indexers are interested in attending an upcoming Peer Review meeting, but are unsure if they will have an index to review at that time, they should nevertheless RSVP to the Peer Review coordinator with their interest to participate.
People should generally not submit an index without attending (except for last-minute cancellations), but we might accept such indexes in case too few participants bring indexes and we have the extra time. There is no guarantee that an index submitted without indexer presence will be reviewed.
By when must an index be submitted?
Participants should submit an index a few days prior to the meeting for redistribution to all other participants. (The coordinator will specify the exact date.) This will hopefully be short enough time that a review can be done on an index for client submission. Participants, who have RSVPed without submitting an index, may still bring in an index on the day of the meeting. Same-day submitters of indexes must make enough photocopies of the index for all participants and can expect a briefer and less thorough review than had the index been reviewed ahead of time.
How much preparation is needed by participants?
Participants should print out all the indexes that are submitted ahead of time and distributed by e-mail by the Peer Review coordinator. They should then spend some time reviewing and marking the indexes prior to the meeting. The amount of time reviewing the indexes will vary greatly depending on the number and length of the indexes. Participants should expect to spend a minimum of an hour reviewing all pre-submitted indexes, although two might be more realistic, and additional time is always appreciated. If there are a large number of indexes submitted, the Peer Review Coordinator may choose to divide and assign the pre-meeting reviewing among the participants so that each participant focuses on only a couple of the indexes. Participants should still print out and at least glance at all indexes ahead of time.
How are meetings run?
Dedicated meetings last two hours, whereas peer review sessions that are part of a longer conference may be limited to an hour and a half. The sessions are facilitated by a peer review coordinator, which at times has been a formal NEASI officer position of Chair of Continuing Studies. The meetings begin with a round of introductory statements by each participant. Then indexes are reviewed in the order they were submitted, with a time-limit set for each. With each index, participants who reviewed it ahead of time make their comments in turn. There may also be open discussion on indexing issues raised, as long as time allows. Questions by all participants are always welcome. The time allotted to discuss the review of each index depends on how many are submitted. It might be 20 minutes or so. After pre-submitted indexes by present indexers are reviewed, then same-day submitted indexes are reviewed, allowing participants 5-10 minutes of silent reading/reviewing time. participants submit their marked up copies of an index to the indexer by the end of the meeting. At the end of the meeting, participants may choose to go out to each lunch together.
What should be looked at when reviewing an index?
The indexes ought to be proofread for spelling, consistency in names, and typographical errors prior to submission. Reviewers should focus on the following areas:
Selection of main entries
Subentries and use of prepositions and conjunctions
Cross references (format and placement)
Length of index
Is there a fee, and what must one bring?
There is no fee, but participants must print out their own copies of the pre-submitted electronically distributed indexes, and sufficient copies for all particpants of any index one submits the same day. Participants may wish to bring the entire text/proofs of the book for which they wrote an index that is submitted. Also, participants are welcome to bring a snack or beverage to share with all attending.
More information on peer reviewing
Peer Review Guidelines by Sherry Smith and Phyllis Linn on the web site of Pacific Northwest Chapter of ASI.
Key Words, the bulletin of the American Society for Indexing, has several articles on peer reviews in issues in volume 10 (2002) and volume 12 (2004), which are availabe with member login on the ASI website:
Peer Review Checklist, Vol. 10 No. 4 July/August 2002: 107
Peer Review Reports, Vol. 10 No. 4 July/August 2002: 106
Logistics for Peer Reviews (Osgood), Oct-Dec 2004 (Vol. 12, No. 4):120-121
Peer Reviewer Guidelines (Osgood), Oct-Dec 2004 (Vol. 12, No. 4):119
Online peer reviewing
Prior to attending an NEASI peer review meeting, participants might want to try reviewing an index first via the IndexPeers discussion group.
This group is devoted exclusively to peer reviews of back-of-the-book indexes. (So, there really isn’t any discussion.) Indexers post when they have an index ready or soon to be ready for reviewing, giving the subject matter and a due date (typically within a couple of days). Other indexers reply if they are interested in reviewing it. The indexer requesting the review then sends the RTF index file to two to four reviewers. They provide comments (often in the Word file with track changes/comments feature) and e-mail it back by the due date. The indexer then posts an acknowledgment and quick summary to the list at the end. No one keeps track of how many times someone reviews or is reviewed, but list members try to do some of each. Guidelines are provided to new group members.