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News, How-tos, and assorted Views on Accordance Bible Software.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006  

The Devil is NOT in the Details

On the search window, just below the search entry box, there's a rather unassuming button labeled Details. If you haven't tried it yet, you're missing out on a world of interesting and helpful information. If you have tried it, you'll find that you can get far more information by using the one keyboard shortcut you absolutely must learn. Anybody remember what that was? That's right, command-T.

In this post, I'll give you a quick rundown of what the Details button does. Then later in the week we'll explore how command-T can really make the Details come alive.

Whenever you do a search, you get a list of the verses that contain that search term, with the search term highlighted. You can then navigate through the search results and explore what was found. But what if you want a bird's eye view of your search results? What if you want to spot certain trends without having to go through hundreds or even thousands of hit verses? That's precisely the time when you need to click the Details button.

Here's a simple example of what I mean. Let's say you do a wildcard search for any form of the English word "love." You would enter lov* into the Search window and click OK. Now, you get a list of verses with words like "love", "loves", and "loving" highlighted. But what if you want a list of all the words that were found? You guessed it, click the Details button.

When you click the Details button, a special Workspace window opens. Along the top of this Workspace you'll see four buttons: Graph, Analysis, Concordance, and Table. Clicking any of these buttons will open a tab displaying a particular kind of information about your search.

You may have some tabs open automatically, depending on the defaults you set in the Search window panel of the Preferences. Accordance defaults to showing the Graph and Analysis tabs.

The Graph displays a visual representation of how frequently the search term appears across the search range. I did my search for lov* in the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), so my resulting graph looks like this:

Note the spikes at Psalms, Song of Songs, John, and 1 John. If you double-click on one of the spikes, your Search window will be scrolled to the place in the text which corresponds to the point on the graph you double-clicked. You can customize the appearance of the Graph in a variety of ways, and can even graph multiple searches, so you can compare things like the two Greek words for "love" or the various Hebrew names for "God." I'll discuss how to do those things in a future post, but for now, let's move on to the Analysis.

The Analysis tab lets you break down your search results in a variety of ways. The default for English language searches is to list every word that was found, along with the number of times each word appears. So my search for lov* in the HCSB results in the following Analysis:

Most of the words that were found are pretty much what I expected, but note that the word "lovemaking" appears once. Since I had no idea the Bible talks about such things (wink!), I might like to find where this particular word is used. So I can select it, then go to the Resource palette and select HCSB from the English texts pop-up menu. This will open a new Search window displaying every occurrence of the word I had selected. Now I can see that the HCSB uses the word lovemaking in Proverbs 7:18, which describes the seductive speech of a prostitute.

If you do this search in a text with Strong's numbers, such as the KJVS or NAS95S, the Analysis will show not only the list of English words that were found, but the various Greek and Hebrew words which they translate. Once again, there's a lot more to the Analysis, especially when searching grammatically-tagged Greek and Hebrew texts, but we'll get to that in a future post. For now, let's take a quick look at the Concordance and the Table.

If you click the Concordance button on the Details Workspace, a new Tab will open displaying a Concordance of every word that was found by your search. For common words, such as "love," only the references where that word is found will be listed. For less common words, like "Love" (note the distinction in case), both the reference and an excerpt will be displayed. Want to publish an exhaustive concordance of the HCSB? You've got the tools to do it right here!

Finally, if you click the Table button, you'll get a Table displaying the number of times your search term appears in each book within your search range, along with a ratio representing the number of hits per 1000 words. It is this latter number which forms the basis of the Graph we looked at earlier. Often the most interesting thing about the Table is discovering which books have zero occurrences of the search term. For example, the word "love" is not used at all in the New Testament book of Acts—at least, not in this particular translation. This surprising bit of statistical information might lead me to search other English translations to see if this pattern is repeated there. Or I could search the Greek for Greek words which are typically translated love, and see if any of them appear in the books of Acts.

Wherever I go from here, by now it should be clear that the Details Workspace provides various ways to get a bird's-eye view of my search results, and this alternative perspective makes it easier to discover things about my search that I might not have noticed were I simply to scan through the search results.

By now it should be clear that in Accordance, the devil is definitely not in the Details. Rather, to use another cliché: "There's gold in them thar hills!"





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