Apr 16, 2010 David Lang

Searching for Repeated Words

Last night on our forums, someone posted the following question:

There is a portion of scripture that mentions "understanding", in some form, at least four times in 10 verses. I know that I could simply enter "understand*" and look through the results. But I was wondering if there was a search argument that would give me better results. Any tips?

This search is a great example of what can be done using the Construct window. This user did not mention what translation he was using, but I figured a more formal translation like the ESV would be more likely to reflect repetition in Hebrew or Greek, so I opened a Search window with the ESV as my search text. Next I used the keyboard shortcut command-1 to open a Simple Construct window that would automatically be linked to my Search window. (I could also have gone to File-->New Construct-->Simple)

In the Construct window, I dragged a Word element into the first column and clicked OK without selecting a word from the list. This inserts a blank Word element into the first column. I then typed "understand*" (without the quotes) directly into the Word element. The asterisk at the end of "understand" is a wildcard which will find words like "understands" and "understanding" as well as "understand."

Because I wanted this word to appear at least four times in my search result, I option-dragged the Word element from the first column into the second column. Option-dragging an item copies it rather than just moving it, so I now had identical Word elements in the first and second columns. I simply repeated this for the third and fourth columns.

Now that I had defined the elements of my search, I could specify the relationships between those elements in the area above the column. I dragged a WITHIN item above the first two columns and specified a broad proximity of 200 words. That seemed like a good number of words to span several verses. I then dragged the handle of the right arc of the WITHIN item to the right so that it attached to the fourth column. Having a WITHIN span multiple columns like this allows for the words represented in the columns to appear at any point in the specified word distance.


That's all there is to creating a Construct to search for repeated words, so I clicked the Find button to perform the search. This returned an error message saying that my search could not be found. The reason for that is that my Search window defaulted to searching within verses, so it was looking for any single verse in which "understand" is repeated at least four times. Guess what. There aren't any.

But the user who asked for this search already knew that. He specified that "understand" would be repeated four times within a range of about 10 verses. So I needed a way to specify that this search cross verse boundaries.

In Accordance, of course, this is easy to do. Simply open the More Options section of the Search window and choose "Paragraph" or "Chapter" from the Search within every pop-up menu. Choosing "Chapter" and clicking the Find button returned several passages where "understand" is repeated at least four times: Proverbs 2:2–11, Proverbs 28:2-16, Daniel 9:22–25, and Matthew 13:13–19.

Having done all this, I returned to the forums to explain how to do it to the user in question. I found that Helen—the undisputed fastest draw on the forums—had already constructed the exact same search (even using a proximity of 200) and explained how to do it. Oh well, it gave me material for a good blog post! ;-)

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