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ASTM standards presently are compiled as a 68-volume sectionalized Annual Book of ASTM Standards. Each section has an index, and there is also a general index volume covering all of the more-than-8500 standards. These indexes are prepared by a senior person on the ASTM Staff, an experienced professional indexer but not one who is an expert in the many disciplines and fields that are the subjects of ASTM standards.
ASTM has always encouraged its technical committees to provide appropriate keywords for indexing. Members of these committees, the volunteer developers of ASTM standards, do have the subject expertise. However, most committees do not select indexing keywords, and because of the growing realization that index entries are best conceptualized by subject specialists, ASTM has changed its regulations to mandate that keywords be identified and selected in each new or revised standard.
Because this action requires technique that is not yet familiar to most technical committee writers, they are seeking general guidance from the ASTM Standing Committee on Terminology.
In this paper the author reviews the formation of the keyword concept (as distinguished from the concept of key words), its history and formats, as well as the development of the standards-indexing practice within ASTM. Examples are cited of problems inherent in the “traditional” ASTM system of index preparation. The paper concludes with a description of a rational system of keyword identification and selection, suggested for use by the technical-commitee subject experts in fulfilling the keyword mandate in ASTM regulations governing form and style for its standards.
indexing, index terms, keyword identification, keyword selection, term inventory, thesaurus, vocabulary
Standards consultant, Harleysville, PA