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Outspoken Dean Tudor on the Importance of the SOURCES Subject Guide

By Dean Tudor

"How the hell can anybody use SOURCES without first checking the Subject Guide? To use an alphabetically-arranged directory without going first to the index is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

"Most of us, even in journalism, have never been taught to use indexes!

"In SOURCES, everything's laid out in the Subject Guide.

"There's a knack to using indexes. First we need to express in one or two words the subject we're researching. Take arms race. Look in the Subject Guide under that word or phrase. Four times out of five it will be there. Check out the listing. Read the description. Find a contact.

"When the term is not there, it's because either SOURCES' publisher didn't sell an appropriate listing (so it isn't covered; indexes can only describe what's there to begin with) or we're suffering tunnel vision. We should browse around the Subject Guide a little ahead or behind the word we've looked up. Sometimes adjectival expressions are spelled differently enough to throw us off the scent (i.e., automobiles, automotive).

"Or think of a related term. People use different words for the same thing. I might say ghost; you might say apparition; your friend says spectre.

"Another strategy is to think of a narrower
term. In the case of gum, both chewing gum and bubble gum are better, more specific terms. Or you can go for a broader term, since all gum is candy or confectionery.

"It's very simple once we realize that nearly every term has related narrower and broader words that express the same idea.

"Speaking of ideas, why not turn to the Subject Guide now and familiarize yourself with it, perhaps testing out its virtually infallible indexing system!"

 Published in Sources, Summer 1984

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