The notion that words hold mythic power has been with us as long as language.
We know we don't need to ward off evil spirits, but we still say, "Gesundheit!" when someone sneezes. Can't hurt.
But misplaced confidence in the power of word searches can seriously hamper electronic data discovery. Perhaps because keyword searching works so well in the regimented realm of automated legal research, lawyers and judges embrace it in EDD with little thought given to its effectiveness as a tool for exploring less-structured information. Too bad, because the difference between keyword searches that get the goods and those that fail hinges on thoughtful preparation and precaution.
Framing effective searches starts with understanding that most of what we think of as textual information isn't stored as text. Brilliant keywords won't turn up anything if the data searched isn't properly processed.
Take Microsoft Outlook e-mail. The message we see isn't a discrete document so much as a report assembled on-the-fly from a database. As with any database, the way information is stored little resembles the way we see it onscreen after our e-mail program works its magic by decompressing, decoding and decrypting messages.
Lots of evidence we think of as textual isn't stored as text, including fax transmissions, .tiff or PDF documents, PowerPoint word art, CAD/CAM blueprints and Zip archives. For each, the search software must process the data to insure content is accessible as searchable text.
Be certain the search tool you or your vendor employ can access and interpret all of the data that should be seen as text.
Reviewing a box of documents that contains envelopes within folders, you'd open everything to ensure you saw everything.
Computers store data within data such that an Outlook file can hold an e-mail transmitting a Zip archive containing a PowerPoint with an embedded .tiff image.
It's the electronic equivalent of Russian nesting dolls. If the text you seek is inside that .tiff, the search tool must drill down through each nested item, opening each with appropriate software to ensure all content is searched. This is called recursion, and it's an essential feature of competent search. Be sure your search tool can dig down as deep as the evidence.
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By: Craig Ball