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Breaking down email threading in eDiscovery

| Written by Altlaw

With the average worker sending 40 emails per day — and receiving over 100 — it's no surprise that emails can play a key role in many cases worldwide. However, with the sheer number of emails in the average inbox, working through them can be a mammoth task.

When dealing with large amounts of emails, analytics tools are available to make a review more efficient. Here, we explore email threading in detail, look into the steps involved and how the tool helps a reviewer.


What is email threading?

Email threading involves collecting and presenting documents that make up the same email thread. The tool identifies email relationships, such as threads, the people involved in a discussion and attachments, grouping them so you can view them as one conversation.

The chronological arrangement of these individual messages allows reviewers to view discussions as one coherent conversation and analyse emails and attachments in sequential order.

Keeping emails in context and chronological order increases the chances of a more effective review. Understanding an email's importance or value can be easier once it's seen within the wider email thread.


Email threading in eDiscovery — How does it work?

Now that you know what email threading is, let's dive into how the eDiscovery process works for email threading, leading to improved reviews.

Analysing segments

The tool identifies documents that can be recognised as emails before looking at the individual messages, forwards, replies etc. within the emails. These are the separate segments of an email thread.

For example, a single reply to an email would contain the original email at the bottom of the thread. If this example was part of an eDiscovery collection, it would have two segments: the original email and the reply.

The algorithm then analyses segments and groups emails and attachments belonging to the same conversation. The email copy, send time and attachments are analysed to determine whether the email is unique or inclusive.

Inclusive and non-inclusive emails

Reviewing inclusive emails is one way email threading tools speed up the eDiscovery process. Inclusive emails contain the most complete content, such as all text and attachments in an email thread group.

Inclusive and non-inclusive emails depend on the uniqueness of the information they contain. Inclusive emails contain the most unique information and there can be several inclusive emails within an email thread.

So, if a reviewer analyses just the inclusive emails, they’ll have examined all the unique content in the email thread.

Therefore, by reviewing inclusive messages, a reviewer can bypass most duplicate or redundant content, reducing the number of emails they have to analyse.


How email threading helps reviewers

Email threads can contain hundreds of segments, but only some will be useful for your investigation. You might miss critical information in long email threads if you conduct a review without emailing tools.

For example, analysing a thread of 15 messages without email threading would mean a reviewer sees the emails as separate messages mixed into the overall data set.

The reviewer has the chance of missing potentially useful information as they're only seeing part of what may be a larger conversation. 

Email threading helps group threads together, allowing for more detailed analysis of conversations. Doing so will make it easier to make a coding decision and ensure your review is as effective as possible.


What are the key benefits?

Email threading tools significantly cut down the number of documents in your review queue, saving you time by eliminating duplicate content.
Plus, by grouping email chains in chronological order, all emails in a relevant thread can be reviewed at once rather than mixed in with the rest of the data set. You can check relevant emails in their intended context, improving the quality of your review.

Email threading tools can also highlight missing emails in a chain, inserting placeholders to show where a reply or forward was once present.

Overall, email threading makes your review more efficient, accurate and easier to conduct. With the number of cases which now use emails as evidence, the tool is a must for any reviewer.

When to use email threading

You should use email threading when you're faced with reviewing a substantial amount of email data or for a data set containing email data from several different inboxes.

When not to use email threading

It's not worth using the tool for standalone electronic documents or for cases where you anticipate needing to perform many redactions. 


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