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What is a metatopic?
A metatopic is the broadest subject heading used to describe a book. It is often used in the title, especially in the case of textbooks. It is important that the indexer has a good understanding of the metatopic in order to create an index reflective of the content of the book at hand.
Should the metatopic be included in the index?
As a general rule, do not include a main heading for the metatopic because its locators would span the entirety of the book. In its indexing guidelines, Cambridge University Press warns that the metatopic “[entry] would have to be so long and complicated that it would become unwieldy. It would be more practical to have entries on the topics [which] are discussed in the book.”
Exceptions to the Rule
As with all indexing, occasions may arise when it might be useful to the reader to break this rule. If that is the case, treat the main heading carefully. Keep it concise and include cross-references to related entries. The America Society for Indexing suggests that metatopic entries “be used to gather both information of a general nature and information that is inappropriate as its own main heading.”
American Society for Indexing, “Best Practices for Indexing,” 2015.
Cambridge University Press, “Author Hub Academic Publishing Guidelines: Indexing.”