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An index (plural: usually indexes, more rarely indices; see below) is a list of words or phrases (‘headings’) and associated pointers (‘locators’) to where useful material relating to that heading can be found in a document or collection of documents. Examples are an index in the back matter of a book and an index that serves as a library catalog.

In a traditional back-of-the-book index, the headings will include names of people, places, events, and concepts selected by the indexer as being relevant and of interest to a possible reader of the book. The indexer may be the author, the editor, or a professional indexer working as a third party. The pointers are typically page numbers, paragraph numbers or section numbers.

In a library catalog the words are authors, titles, subject headings, etc., and the pointers are call numbers. Internet search engines (such as Google) and full-text searching help provide access to information but are not as selective as an index, as they provide non-relevant links, and may miss relevant information if it is not phrased in exactly the way they expect.

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Definition of "Index" by Chat GPT: The term "index" can refer to a few different things, depending on the context. In general, an index is a numerical value or ratio that represents a change or performance metric in comparison to a base value. 1. In finance and economics, an index is a statistical measure of the changes in a portfolio of securities representing a particular market or sector. For example, the S&P 500 index tracks the performance of 500 large companies listed on stock exchanges in the United States. 2. In publishing and information retrieval, an index is a list of keywords or topics along with corresponding page numbers or links to help locate specific information within a document or database. 3. In mathematics, an index may refer to the power to which a number is raised, as in the index of a root or exponent. Ultimately, an index serves as a reference point or benchmark for comparison and analysis.
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