Mary Coe

Proposed title

A sense-making approach to active e-book indexes.


The book index, one of the tools used by readers to find information in a print book (p-book), is evolving to fit the electronic book (e-book) format.  However, there is a lack of research on the behaviour of book index users that could guide the development of e-book indexes.  This study will begin filling that gap by asking how readers make sense of active e-book indexes, which are indexes with locators hyperlinked to the text.  Locators are fundamental components of indexes -- in p-book indexes, they are usually page numbers; however, in e-book indexes, locators can be hyperlinked to the page, paragraph, line or word.  E-book readers' understanding of, and ability to use, these hyperlinks will affect their ability to find information in an e-book.  Dervin's sense-making approach, which views information seeking as a process of defining and bridging gaps or discontinuities, will be used as a framework for research design.  Qualitative methods of data collection and analysis, including observation using eye tracking equipment, retrospective think aloud, and interviews, will be used.  The results of this study will be of interest to professional book indexers and e-book designers who are developing new indexing systems in e-books.

Why I chose Charles Sturt

I have been a professional book indexer for many years, and I am curious about how people are using indexes.  With that in mind, I enrolled in the Master of Information Studies at Charles Sturt because of the Applied Research stream.  The skills that I gained conducting my first research project through that course gave me the confidence to continue on as an HDR student.  The support and encouragement that I received at Charles Sturt made it a natural choice to enrol there again.

Engagement and memberships

I have been an active member of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers for many years, most recently serving as President of the society.  I have also been a member of the American Society for Indexing and am currently a member of the Australian Library and Information Association and the Association for Information Science and Technology. At Charles Sturt, I am the HDR student representative on the School of Information Studies Research Management Committee.


  • Coe, M (2016).  Website indexing.  The Indexer: The International Journal of Indexing, 34(1).
  • Coe, M (2015). What do readers expect from book indexes and how do they use them? An exploratory user study.  The Indexer: The International Journal of Indexing, 33(3).
  • Coe, M. (2014). Where is the evidence? A review of book indexing research. The Indexer: The International Journal of Indexing, 32(4).
  • Browne, G. & Coe, M. (2014). Ebook indexing. In E. L. Zafran (Ed.), Index It Right! Advice from the Experts, Volume 3 (pp. 29-45). Medford, NJ: Information Today.
  • Coe, M. (2013). E books and E lending. Online Currents, 27(4), 182-185.
  • Coe, M. (2012). The tyranny of the page. The Indexer, 30(1), 2-5.
  • Browne, G. & Coe, M. (2012) Ebook navigation: Browse, search and index. Australian Library Journal, 61(4), 288-297.
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