Comprehensive ESI Productions Through Concept Searching

Tuesday, December 28, 2010 by Thought Leadership Team

The process of keyword searching, a relatively straightforward concept, has long been considered standard practice and generally accepted by the courts. However, as the criticism and limitations of the standardized practice of keyword searches continue to grow, so does the courts' advocacy and preference for more technologically advanced search methods.

Concept searching in litigation may be a more efficient method of searching, likely to produce more comprehensive results than the traditional keyword search approach. Benefits include:

  • Focus placed on the co-concurrence of words. Concept searching refers to the search of electronic documents on the basis of ideas by the use of search terms that identify word patterns and relationships.
  • Exact search terms not needed. Concept searching allows reviewers to find documents with similar conceptual terms even if the materials do not contain the exact search terms by broadening a keyword-based search to include synonyms or related ideas.
  • Keyword searches may be insufficient. Research has demonstrated that keyword searches often fail to return relevant documents. This is due to the fact that it is often difficult for litigation teams to design effective keyword searches to include all terms that would result in the production of pertinent materials.

Whether concept search methods will continue to gain steam as a preferred ESI search method remains to be seen. However, the type of search performed will significantly impact not only the amount of ESI that is retrieved for review, but the content of such communications as well. Regardless of the search method employed, this is an important fact that litigators are wise to acknowledge.