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In a Book, what is an Appendix?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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An appendix is a section at the end of a book that includes supplementary information that the author or publisher thinks may be of interest to the reader, but is either too tangential or too detailed to be worked into the actual text. Appendices are commonly used to support the qualifications of the author and to increase the credibility of the publication. They may also be used to help readers navigate the work, as is the case with an index or bibliography. In a book with multiple appendices, they are usually identified by letter, as in “Appendix A,” “Appendix B,” and so forth, and are often be paginated differently from the rest of the book.

A Place For Additional Information

All sorts of information can be included in an appendix. As a general rule, this portion of a book contains information that would not have been appropriate in the primary text, but is still important. For example, a book on natural childbirth might include an list of sources used and works which may be of additional interest to the reader — books from other cultures, for instance, or medical guides that may be beyond the scope of the author’s goals. This makes it easy for readers to get more information without requiring the author to touch on absolutely everything.

Supporting Data

Raw data is frequently presented in the appendices of scientific and scholarly works so that people can see immediate sources for themselves. Tables, charts, and graphs are common here — these elements are important, but are often seen as overly distracting when placed directly in the body of the text. Including these elements at the end is a good way to make sure that they are accessible. Failure to include raw data can lead to censure or questions about the credibility of the analysis. In the eyes of some readers, the only reason to omit data is to cover up bad research or poor methodology.

Indices and Topical Guides

Many works also include an index or itemized references to specific topics in the book. Cookbooks, for instance, commonly have an index of recipes by ingredient so that someone who wants to look up a recipe using onions can flip to “onions” in the index and see which pages of the book contain onion recipes. Most of the time, recipes are sorted by title as well in order to give maximum flexibility.

Indexes may also be arranged by topic, individual, or main idea. This sort of organization is particularly useful for readers who want to be able to refer back to something they remembered enjoying or are wanting to know more about. Glossaries are another thing commonly found in appendices — these are resources that define terms used in the text, usually with a page reference to where the word, term, or person named can be read about in more depth.

Original Materials

An appendix can also include first hand sources like letters, photographs, cargo manifests, and other original documents in works of research. Bibliographers are fond of including this kind of information for their readers, often because they find it intriguing but may not have had the time to go over it in detail. It is also possible to find references like maps and technical drawings in this area.

Footnotes and Endnotes

Some style guides recommend including footnotes or endnotes in an appendix rather than in the text itself. This can reduce distraction, and also gathers footnoted information in one convenient spot rather than forcing readers to flip back and forth between numerous pages to consult different sources.

A book appendix should not be confused with the vermiform appendix, which is a vestigial organ found in humans. Many believe that the book appendix was named after the organ, in that neither is truly essential: humans can live without their appendices just as books would be complete without the supplemental materials, guides, and indices included at the back.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon925714 — On Jan 13, 2014

@anon29476: I would just add a reference to that specific section of information within the Appendices at the end of the chapter, instead of splitting the main body of text up as well as the Appendices itself. That way, the readers will know where to seek further knowledge at the end of the chapter.

By RobMichael — On May 19, 2013

The index is the most important part in the Appendix. If a book does not have an index, I always get lost. It is not easy to have a user-friendly one, but it is mandatory.

A friend of mine finished writing his first book a couple of days ago, and after many trials to create his book index, he finally found a software named "PDF Index Generator" to manage this for him. The index is now mostly finished and it looks nice for the book.

Now I can start reading his book without getting lost.

By MrsPramm — On Dec 16, 2012

I really love it when a book has an appendix, or appendices. There's often good, solid information back there, like a list of edible plants in a survival novel, or a discussion about family trees in a history.

It's often a bit dry, but also useful. I find that I will more usually be checking out that part of the book for information than the main contents after I'm done reading it.

By indigomoth — On Dec 15, 2012

@anon29476 - I think it depends on the kind of book. There are a couple of different ways to handle it, but the preferred way is usually going to be using footnotes. That way you can keep the information close to where it is actually useful, without cluttering up the main text with it.

Sometimes the footnotes are arranged on the relevant page, and sometimes they are arranged at the end of the chapter. And, if there is much more in depth information, that does belong in the appendix, sometimes it is the footnotes that refer to it, rather than the main text.

By love2learn — On Jun 03, 2010

Appendices come in handy in a variety of ways. For studying or working on a homework assignment, go to the index to quickly find that word or specific topic you're looking for. I find the index of greatest value when I am cooking. Instead of searching the entire section of the book for a recipe, flip to the index and look under the specific type of food you're wanting to cook. For example, look for chicken and there will be an entire list of recipes containing chicken with page numbers for them.

By booklife — On Jun 03, 2010

I cannot remember ever seeing a book with an appendix or addendum at the end of a chapter. Your best bet would be to consult other mathematical texts to see if this practice is used or to check with an author who has written a mathematical text.

By anon29476 — On Apr 02, 2009

In a book, can there be an appendix or an addendum at the end of a chapter, instead of at the end of the book? If there is some lengthy mathematical detail that is highly relevant to the content of the chapter, but it's inclusion in the main body of the chapter would prove overly daunting and distracting to those readers who were not that well versed in higher mathematics if it were included in the body of the chapter, is it OK to take that detailed material and include it as an addendum right at the end of the chapter?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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