HelpMasterFile Working with profilesCreating your Issue/Topic outline

Creating your Issue/Topic outline

Issues and topics are categories that you define. They let you organize the documents, extracts, facts and players in a MasterFile database much like a book's index.

For example, if you are storing documents which pertain to a set of sites relevant to an environmental project, you can create a classification category called "Sites" and a sub-category for each site name. And, like a book's index, if you link an item to several issues or topics, it will appear under each.

To help management, large collections of issues and topics can be organized into a hierarchical outline up to three levels deep i.e. section, subsection and issue/topic.

The issue/topic list is used to complete the "Links to issues, players or subject index topics" fields in document, extract, fact and player profiles, and is used by views to group profiles in the various "by Issue/Topic" views.

Issues and topics are almost identical; they are defined the same way and appear in all the same views. However, issues can be assigned an impact assessment as to how the issue affects your case: is it for you, against you, etc.

If your case has several parties, propositions or hypotheses, such as in an investigation, we suggest you do not assign an impact assessment to your issues and choose "Not applicable". This is because issues may impact each proposition differently. Instead, since you will in general have at least one fact representing each issue and that is where its argument will be set out, we suggest you only set impact assessments in facts, where they can be assigned to your propositions.

How you use the issue/topic view is virtually limited only by your imagination. Besides the issue/topic outline, you can use issue/topics to categorize, classify or group together documents, extracts, facts and players to mimic divider tabs (such as those related to administrative matters) of your hard copy case binder, as explained in the following section, "The Document Binder View", or even a corporate records binder.

You will find the following four unique features dramatically enhance the functionality of issues and topics:

  • Incomplete topics -- topics you complete "on-the-fly" when they're used.
  • Hidden topics -- topics that don't appear in the "by Issue/Topic" views.
  • Required issue/topics -- issue/topic categories that must be linked to new documents, extracts, facts and/or players.
  • Issue/Topic cross-table -- eliminates duplicating issues when the same issues apply to many situations in the case.

We look at them below.

Incomplete and hidden topics

Incomplete topics are similar to regular topics, but are completed when used. You define an incomplete topic by simply ending the topic with "??". For example:

  • Locations\Arcade Towers
  • Locations\The Daily Chronicle
  • Locations\??

In the above example, two locations have been defined, but the third is incomplete. You might wish to do this if you know most of your information will be about the two locations relevant to the case, but you might also get some information regarding other locations. When you link a document or fact, for example, to "Locations\??" you'll be prompted for the location's name.

In the next example, a category "Player Info" is used to collect additional relevant information about players.

  • Player Info\Smoker -- ??
  • Player Info\Children -- ??
  • Player Info\Spouse .... ??

When these topics are linked to players, the value you provide to complete the topic again replaces the "??" and allows players to be categorized by these additional characteristics as shown below.

If a topic contains "...." (4 periods) it becomes a "hidden topic" and will not appear in any "by Issue/Topic" view. For example, the "Spouse .... ??" topic above can be used to record a spouse's name, but none of these names will appear in views. They stay in the list of linked issues and topics within the player's form together with other such hidden topics -- it's as though you've just customized the database design to hold additional information. However, using the option "Display hidden topics as a column on fact and player views" in [R+ Administration > Administrator Settings], hidden topics can be displayed as a column on the fact and player views.

You'll also find incomplete and/or hidden topics useful when you need a few "custom" text fields to record additional information. Although not the same as custom database programming, with just a "??" you can quickly and easily capture a few bits of additional information and have them automatically categorize the database -- no need to understand database design, learn customization tools, or design new views. And like all information in MasterFile, the topics are indexed so you can also full-text search them if needed.

Required Issue/Topics

The benefits of linking information by issues or topics are obvious; however, if not used consistently the value is lost.

For example, if you are dealing with case involving accidents at several locations, you naturally want to locate all information related a location. However, it's easy to forget to link new information as it is added to the database. In this case, you can specify the parent level category, "Locations", as a "required topic". Once a topic category has been made "required", new documents, extracts, facts or profiles (or any combination you choose) must be linked to a topic in that category before they can be saved.

To set an issue/topic category as "required" you have to have first created it as an Issue/Topic. Then make it a Required_Issues_Topics keyword like this.

  • Click on Keyword : Player again.
  1. Click on Required_Issues_Topics, and then
  2. Select issue or topic category

You'll see the selector below.

  • Select a keyword in the category to set its parent as required. Below, I want to set 'Defective Part Issues' to be required so I've chosen a keyword within it.
  • Click OK, and on the Required_Issues_Topics form again, now set 'Required for what' to force which profiles require a 'Defective Part Issue' to be set. Since I selected Documents, from now on any document added via Power Assist mode, via the WatchFolder or edited will require this issue to be set.

We suggest you also allow for exceptions. For example, if you set a topic 'Locations' to be required, then create additional keywords under it to allow for exceptional situations, i.e.:

  • Locations\Not applicable
  • Locations\Unknown
  • Locations\To decide

If you also wish to ensure profiles are linked to players, type in Players manually for the keyword value in  Required_Issues_Topics list.

Using the Issue/Topic cross-tab

The Issue/Topic cross-table is designed specifically for situations when a set of issues applies to many entities and eliminates the need to create and maintain duplicate sets of your issue outline for each entity.

Suppose your litigation involves many elevators all with the same issues. Your issue/topic list can be imagined to be a cross-table where every row of the table is an issue and every column is the entity that it applies to. The table below shows how this is used for defective part issues (the rows of the cross-table) that apply to elevators at various locations (the columns):

For each issue that makes up the rows of the cross-table insert "[row]" in the issue name and for each topic that makes up the columns of the cross-table insert "[col]" in the topic name, as shown below:

Defective Parts[row]\Brakes
Defective Parts[row]\Cables

Locations[col]\Arcade Towers
Locations[col]\The Daily Chronical

These issue/topics will then also appear on the "everything: by Issue X-Tab" view. The "everything: by Issue X-Tab" then automatically categorizes all documents, extracts and facts as follows:

Defective Parts[row]\Brakes\Locations[col]\Arcade Towers
Defective Parts[row]\Brakes\Locations[col]\The Daily Chronical
Defective Parts[row]\Cables\Locations[col]\Arcade Towers
Defective Parts[row]\Cables\Locations[col]\The Daily Chronical

and also as follows:

Locations[col]\Arcade Towers\Defective Parts[row]\Brakes
Locations[col]\The Daily Chronical\Defective Parts[row]\Brakes
Locations[col]\Arcade Towers\Defective Parts[row]\Cables
Locations[col]\The Daily Chronical\Defective Parts[row]\Cables

try it - Creating an Issue/Topic outline entry

In MasterFile, keywords are used to create the Issue/Topic outline.

  • Click on [R+ Create/Keyword : Player]
  • Select "Issues_Topics".
  • Enter the issue/topic for the keyword value according to the following rules:
    • <issue or topic description>
    • <category>\<issue or topic description>
    • <category>\<sub-category>\<issue or topic description>
  • Close and save the form.

Here are some topic and issue keyword examples

  • Locations\Northeast
  • Physical Evidence\Wheelchair
  • Defective Part Issues\Brakes and cables were both defective

Keyword creation is also explained here.

More details are also explained on the profile form in List help.