PAWDOC: Indexing (and the Accession process)

Indexing is a key aspect of a filing system because it is one of the mechanisms used to find documents. An alternative mechanism is to search the full text of documents, but the PAWDOC system has not explored this approach because a) the PAWDOC system does not recognise the full text of all the documents it contains, and b) because I have always believed this approach would provide too many hits thereby reducing search effectiveness.

Indexing within the PAWDOC collection is performed at two levels: first, each entry (uniquely identified by a Reference Number) in the main index file contains a Title field (in which a free format description and any number of uncontrolled keywords can be specified) and a few other fields including publication date. Second, each electronic file (be it a scan of a hardcopy document, or a born-digital document) associated with a particular Reference Number contains a unique file title. The contents of these two sets of indexing information provide the means to search for a document, to decide if you have found what you are looking for, and to get a better idea of what the chosen Reference Number and/or associated electronic file(s) contain. These potential uses are worth bearing in mind when indexing information is being specified.

Inevitably mistakes are made when specifying Title information and so it is essential that index entries can be changed over time to correct typos, grammar and factual errors as necessary. Changes may also be inspired by experiencing difficulty in finding a document, and in these cases some additional text may be included to reflect the search terms that first came to mind, or to reflect the changes in terminology that occurs regularly in language and in today’s fast moving technical and cultural environment.

Indexing is closely integrated into the process of including a new document in the PAWDOC collection, not least because adding a new file involves creating a file title which in turn includes a Reference Number and possibly some text from the associated Index entry. Hence, timings for how long indexing takes are embedded within the overall process of Accessioning (which includes scanning for hardcopy documents). For the PAWDOC collection, which uses a scanner acquired in 2012 and a laptop acquired in 2018, it takes approximately 2.5 – 4 minutes to accession a single colour A4 hardcopy page; and about 3.5 – 5 minutes for a 5 page double sided colour hardcopy document. An electronic of any type and number of pages takes approximately 2 – 3.5 minutes to accession. These are appreciable amounts of time for an overhead administration activity amidst a busy working day. Therefore, it is worth exploring any means of reducing these timings. The obvious way is to keep the number of index fields to an absolute minimum. Experience with the PAWDOC system indicates that integrating keywords into the Title field (as opposed to having a separate keywords field) has been very successful. Conversely, the Publication Date field has not proved to be very useful and I believe could be dispensed with. Experience with the other fields used in the PAWDOC system are summarised below:

  • Reference Number – essential
  • Creation Date – a useful control
  • Movement Status – very useful for recording the whereabouts and status of documents
  • Date Last Accessed – only useful if you particularly need it.

Specific questions relating to this aspect are answered below. Note that the status of each answer will fall into one of the following 5 categories: Not Started, Ideas Formed, Experience Gained, Partially Answered, Fully Answered.

Q10. How long does it take to index a new document?

2001 Answer: Fully answered: It takes 1 -2 minutes to make an entry in the main index and to write the Reference Number on the document. A further 30 seconds is needed to create an entry in the document management system for either an electronic file or a document that is to be scanned immediately (Wilson1995c: 1). Scanning a document will add a further 40-50 seconds for a single page – though the per-page time is reduced considerably for multi-page documents that are put through the sheet feeder (Wilson 1997: 3).

2019 Answer: Fully Answered: This question should really be ‘How long does it take to index a new document and include it in the collection?’ because the indexing process is closely integrated with the process of saving the file. The figures in the 2001 Answer for making a new entry in the main index and writing the Reference Number on the document (1-2 minutes), and for creating a new entry in the document management system (an extra 30 seconds) still stand.  Scanning a document using the Canon DR-2020U scanner I bought in 2013 and the new Chillblast laptop I bought in 2018 with a 1 Terrabyte solid state drive, takes 25 seconds for one colour page or 70 seconds for 5 double sided colour pages. However, the Document Management system was eliminated from the PAWDOC architecture in 2018 and replaced by Windows folders, so the subsequent set of actions has changed to the following: a) Create the main index entry (1-2 mins); b) Create a sub-folder within the main PAWDOC folder in the Windows file system, with the new Reference Number and copy the Ref No (15 seconds); c) create the file title (Ref No   Title,  Date scanned) in the scanner control application starting by pasting in the copied Reference Number (15 – 30 seconds); d) Save the file – use the scanner control application to select the new folder just created to specify where the file should be stored and press save (20-30 seconds); e) check the file – open the file to check that it has been stored in the correct place with the correct title (15 seconds); f) Check the folder – open the file to check it has been scanned correctly (only for multi-page docs or for docs where they may be an issue) (15 seconds). The process for electronic documents has also changed as follows: i) create the main index entry (1-2 mins), ii) create a sub-folder within the main PAWDOC folder in the Windows file system, with the new Reference Number and copy the number (15 seconds); iii) Create the file title – open the Save AS dialogue box and give the file a new file name (Ref No   Title,  Date saved) by first pasting in the copied Reference Number (15 – 30 seconds); iv) Save the file – navigate to the folder into which the file is to be saved and press SAVE (20 – 30 seconds); v) Check the file – open the file to check that it has been stored in the correct place with the correct title (15 seconds). Of course, electronic documents which are placed into an existing Ref No have no need to create a new index entry or a new folder.

In summary, overall timings for including new documents in the collection are as follows: for a 5 page double sided hardcopy document using a new Ref No – approximately 3.5 – 5 minutes; this may reduce to about 2.5 – 3 minutes if an existing Ref No is being used. For an equivalent 5 page electronic document using a new Ref No – approx 2 – 3.5 mins; this may reduce to 1 -1.5 mins if an existing Ref No is being used. Timings for a hardcopy document with only 1 page of contents are reduced by about 45 seconds due to reduced scanning time; electronic document timings stay the same regardless of page count.

Q11. What can you do to speed up indexing?

2001 Answer: Ideas formed: Keep the number of index fields to a minimum.

2019 Answer: Fully Answered: Minimise the number of fields. Automate the generation of the Creation Date. Eliminate the Date Last Accessed field if there is no good reason for recording that information.  To speed up the overall accession process, a) store more rather than less documents in existing Reference Nos (using existing Ref Nos avoids having to create new index entries); b) use a faster scanner; c) reduce the time it takes application programs to page through 17,000+ sub-folder names in the Save As function (for some reason, in my Windows 10 system, the application programs take far longer to do this than Windows File Explorer).

Q12. What is the most effective set of index fields?

2001 Answer: Experience gained: The smallest number you can manage with (Wilson 1990: 95). Reference number, title and keywords, date of creation of the record, movement status, date last accessed.

2019 Answer: Fully Answered: Keeping the number of fields to the absolute smallest number you think you can manage with will minimise the time and effort spent on putting new items into the system and on managing the system. The minimum number of fields I could manage with are Reference No, Title, Creation Date, and Movement Status. The other two fields that I use, but which I believe I could do without, are Publication Date (I rarely refer to this) and Date Last Accessed (which was included mainly for research purposes).

Q13. What criteria should be employed when defining titles and keywords?

2001 Answer: Ideas formed:

  • Remember there is no need to use the actual title of the document.
  • Define titles/keywords in accordance with what the document means to you – that way you are more likely to be able to retrieve it.
  • Bear in mind that title/keywords serve multiple purposes (Wilson 1992a: 8):
    • To enable search and retrieval
    • To enable the user to decide if a retrieved record is what was being searched for
    • To provide the user with an understanding of what is contained in the item referenced by a retrieved record.

2019 Answer: Fully Answered: Do not feel constrained to use the actual title of the document – you are far more likely to be able to specify successful searches for items if you define Titles and Keywords which convey what the document means to you. If you are aware terminology is changing, use the latest terms you know as you are likely to become less familiar with the old terminology as time passes. Since there are no length constraints on the Index entry, use as many words as necessary to describe what the document is about. The second level of indexing – the text in the Titles of individual files – is constrained by length and for that reason might well be shorter than the main index entry. However, care should be taken not to truncate unnecessarily and not to just take the quick and easy route to create the file title by cutting and pasting a generic part of the Index entry. Certainly, where there are two or more files associated with the same Reference No, the titles of the 2nd and subsequent files should clearly distinguish them from all the other files in that Reference No. Also, bear in mind that Title fields (which include Keywords) and File Titles serve at least the following three purposes: a) to enable search and retrieval; b) to enable the user to decide if a retrieved record is what was being searched for; c) to provide the user with an understanding of what is contained in the item referenced by a retrieved record.

Q14. Are there circumstances in which keywords and titles should be changed over time?

2001 Answer: Experience gained: It is very necessary to be able to alter keywords and titles for the following reasons:

  • To accommodate the user’s growing familiarity with a topic. For example, the term `OA Human Aspects’ became an abbreviation `OA HCI’ in later entries, so it needed to be placed in previous entries to ensure they would be retrieved if only `OA HCI’ was specified in the search term (Wilson 1992a: 22).
  • To accommodate changing language. For example, the term `DTI pilot’ became `DOI pilot’ when DTI changed its name (Wilson 1992a, 12).
  • To accommodate additional material being added to an existing hardcopy file, or being added to the associated Folder in the Document Management System.

2019 Answer: Fully Answered: Users should be able to change Titles and Keywords at will to correct mistakes or to try and improve the search success rate. Circumstances in which changes might be made for the latter reason include:

a) to accommodate the user’s growing familiarity with a topic. For example, the term `OA Human Aspects’ became an abbreviation `OA HCI’ in later entries, so it needed to be placed in previous entries to ensure they would be retrieved if only `OA HCI’ was specified in the search term;

b) to accommodate changing language. For example, the term `DTI pilot’ became `DOI pilot’ when DTI changed its name; and

c) to accommodate additional files being added to the Reference No.

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