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Staff Manual Guide 3280.2, Attachment C

Techniques to Enhance Information Retrieval of a Program Manual

Transmittal Number 84-5 -- Date: 01/16/1984

A. General.

Information retrieval should be a prime consideration in the development of program manuals. Manual users must be able to obtain information in a quick, accurate, and convenient manner. If a manual proves otherwise, the user may become frustrated and may not consult the manual. In considering retrieval of information, one should keep in mind the principle, "Think of the User." If this fundamental approach is followed, then implementation of the techniques outlined below will not be an add-on function but an integral part of the development plan.

B. Techniques.

1. Binders.

The binder is the users first exposure to the program manual. If the binder looks attractive, perspective users will open the manual, but if it looks forbidding they might avoid it. The first impression can influence one's attitude toward the contents; it immediately portrays how much (or how little) effort has gone into the development of the manual. When selecting binders, one should consider factors such as size, capacity, style, construction, color, cover design, imprinting, durability, and cost.

2. Title of the Manual.

The title of the manual should be placed on the binder's spine. In multi-volume manuals, the title of the manual and a sub-title for the particular volume should be placed on the spine. As an example, when a manual comprises four volumes with each volume titled, "Policy and Procedures" and differentiated only by numbers I, II, II, and IV on the spine, the user plays a guessing game in determining which volume contains the information that is desired. Since each volume probably contains a particular class of information, it would be a simple matter to give each its own distinctive sub-title.

3. Tabbed Dividers.

Tabbed dividers permit a further breakdown of program information. They should contain distinctive titles instead of numbers so that the user can accurately pinpoint the part of the manual that they can reasonably expect to find the information they are seeking.

4. Index.

The index is probably the most important tool used in retrieval of information from a manual. Three types of indexes generally used are as follows:

a. General Index. This is a list of alphabetically arranged keywords that were extracted from the documents which make up the manual. It is similar to the indexes one finds in a textbook.

b. Contents or Numeric Subject Index. This index lists the subjects by number.

c. Alpha Subject Index. This index lists the subjects alphabetically. A cross reference check is also developed within this index to provide an additional resource.