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Frequently Asked Questions about the Sources Subject Index

Why is the Subject Index so important?

Your entries in the Subject Index are the most powerful feature of your Sources listing. Your choice of headings tells journalists, editors and researchers you have expertise in the subject they are looking up, and leads them directly to your company or organization. Journalists can find you in the A-Z Index if they already know you, or they may come across your listing while browsing Sources, but journalists on a deadline will usually do a Subject search to find experts on the topic they are working on. Choosing your headings carefully maximizes the chances of them finding and calling you.

How can we find subject headings which best describe our expertise?
1) We can provide you with lists of headings related to your area of expertise. We have more than 100 such lists available in fields ranging from Biotechnology to Religion, Post-Secondary Education, Farming, Clothing, Computers, and many more. Most organizations find that all or nearly all the headings they wish to be listed under are on these lists. Find them on the Sources Web site at

2) Make a list of the subjects on which your company or organization has expertise or views; then browse through the Subject Index in your print copy of Sources or on the Sources Internet site to find headings matching your expertise.

3) If your organization was ever listed with Sources before, we have your previous list of headings on file. We can send this to you to update; this can save you a lot of work. Simply delete headings that are no longer appropriate and add new ones that are.

How many subject headings can we choose from?
There are more than 21,000 headings available to you in the Sources Subject Index database. There are also more than 1,500 cross-references which guide users selecting one term to substitute or related terms.

Can I make up my own headings?
It depends. Suggestions for improvements and additions are very welcome, but Sources maintains editorial control of the contents of the Sources Subject Index database, which is a proprietary information resource used by a number of publications and online directories. A Subject Index Editorial Board decides on changes and additions to the database. Additions are commonly being made in rapidly changing fields, especially science and technology. Additions involving minor variations of existing headings, or which are too narrowly specific, are unlikely to be made because Sources users indicate that a proliferation of such headings makes it harder to find what they are looking for -- counterproductive for the organizations listed in Sources as well as for the journalists who use Sources to find contacts to interview and quote.

Will journalists using the Sources Web site find us in the same way as users of the print edition do?
You appear under the same headings in print and online. The Search Engine on the Sources Internet site has some extra features not available in print. Online users can use a "Contains" query which allows them to specify topics containing word roots.

What are some common mistakes in selecting subject headings?
Headings which are too general. "Education" and "Environment" are common examples. Reporters are rarely if ever told to write a story on "the environment". They are more likely to look up topics like "Blue Box Recycling" or "Wildlife Preservation".

Headings which are too restrictive. A heading like "Mirimichi River Salmon Fishery", might be an example. A journalist would be more likely to look under headings like "Salmon" or "Fisheries/Fishermen" or "Sport Fishing".

Vague or obscure headings, such as "Analysis", "Facilities", "Solutions", "Trends", "Prevention".

Repeating of minor variants of the same heading rather than choosing a broad range of headings. An example might be "Comic Books/Adventure", "Comic Books/Horror", "Comic Books/Romance", "Comic Books/Science Fiction", "Comic Books/Superhero". In an already specialized category like Comic Books, a reporter will first look under the "Comic Books" heading. If you are there, the other entries are probably superfluous. You might be better off choosing additional headings like "Popular Culture" or "Animation".

Prefacing headings with adjectives. This usually reduces your chances of being found. If one of your areas of expertise is Houses, suitable headings might include "Housing", "Housing/Seniors", "Construction/Residential", "Home Builders", "Mortgages", "Building Standards", "Roofing", "Condominiums", etc. Most reporters would think of these and similar headings; few would try headings like "New Houses", "British Columbia Houses", "Leaky Condos", "Sub-standard Houses", etc.

Using phrases, marketing slogans, or mission statements as subject headings, e.g. "Excellence in customer service", "Marketing Solutions", and "Easy-to-Use".

Concentrating only on what you do rather than on what you know. Fighting fires may be primarily what fire departments do, but they know a great deal about defective wiring, gas explosions, chemical spills, and how not to store propane cylinders. Make sure your headings reflect the full range of your organization's expertise.

Where can I get more help or information?
1) Call us at 416-964-5735. We'll be glad to help.
2) Lists of subject headings grouped by category are available on the Sources Internet site at; or we can fax or E-mail you a copy.
3) Look through the Subject Index in your copy of Sources or on the Web site to see how it works and how other organizations make use of it.

See also:

Helping journalists find you: Getting the most from the Subject Index
Getting the most out of your Sources Listing
Enhance your listing and get the most for your dollars
How Sources magnifies your Internet visibility