Mar 18, 2010 David Lang

Word Clusters vs. Inferences

Last week our main tech support guy (yes, that's singular!) asked me to contact a scholar who had called in with questions about using the INFER command. When I called, this scholar explained that he had purchased Accordance hoping to use the INFER command for his dissertation, but that he had been unable to get it to do what he wanted. He had ended up doing searches for individual words to finish his dissertation, but still wanted to be able to use the INFER command in his teaching and research.

I gave him a basic tutorial on the use of the INFER command, and then asked him to give me some examples from his dissertation that we could tackle together. He had found that specific portions of the Hebrew Bible begin and end with similar vocabulary, a literary pattern known as an inclusio. From his examples, it became clear that the INFER command would not find what he was looking for. You see, the INFER command is designed to search for similar phrases, but he was looking for clusters of words which are not necessarily part of the same phrase, or even part of the same chapter. When I explained that the INFER command is focused on finding related phrases, the scholar understood why the INFER command had not given him the results he had wanted, and I got the impression he was already thinking of questions the INFER command could help him answer.

Now I just had to find a solution that would do what he was trying to do. Thankfully, the recent forum thread about finding word clusters gave me exactly the solution I needed.

In keeping with our A-Team moniker: "I love it when a plan comes together." :-)

Tomorrow I'll walk you through a couple of the searches we did together and show you the fascinating results.

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