This example is derived from the 2021 Iowa Code Annotated General Index (West, a Thomson Reuters company). Photo and annotations created by Drake Law Library.
Where is the index?
Indexes are typically found as one or more individual volumes at the end of a set (such as with the pictured CJS indexes) or in the back of a book.
You may be able to access an index when using the source electronically. This may be a completely separate link than the source link.
Identify index terms
Consider a few possible terms under which your issue might be listed. Some indexes will provide very narrow index terms (e.g., ferrets) or you may need to think of broader concepts (e.g., pets or animals). Index terms are most often nouns.
Select the index volume that contains your terms by looking at the spine information for what letters each covers (e.g., R to Z indicates it has all words starting with any of the following letters: R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, or Z).
Within each index volume, main heading terms will be listed in bold, all caps, or both. The terms will appear in alphabetical order, so use these as guides to find the page(s) on which your term appears. Typically these terms will be at the top left and right of the page; the word "continued" or "cont." will be used if the index entry started on a previous page.
Look at subheadings
Main headings may be divided into a number of subheadings (narrower aspects of the topic) to help you efficiently identify the places where your topic is discussed. Subheadings may have their own subheadings. Typically each layer of the index outline will be indented to help you navigate it. Although it can initially be frustrating to review many subheadings, it typically saves you time in the long run.
When you look up one term, it might refer you to another. Some common index references include
* Ante ("before;" look up this term, which appears before the current listing, as its own subheading under the same main heading)
* et seq ("and following;" lists the initial section and indicates that subsequent sections will also be relevant
* Generally (provides a broad range of sections where the topic is discussed; it might be useful to go to the first one and use the table of contents for that chapter or section)
* Generally this index (look suggested term up as a main heading - sometimes instead of a subheading; sometimes it is a new term altogether)
* Post ("after;" look up this term, which appears after the current listing, as its own subheading under the same main heading)
* See (use this term instead of the one you first looked up)
* See also (additional relevant information may be found on this heading)
* See specific index headings (look up this term as a subheading under other main headings)
* This index (look this term up as a main heading and then your original term as a subheading under the suggested main heading)