Making the most of the IPA discussion forum: using the archive and search functions effectively

The IPA discussion forum is hosted on Groups.io and is a fantastic and very underutilised resource (in my humble opinion) for IPA research students. It contains an archive of all posts/threads discussing a veritable treasure trove of IPA research-related topics and dilemmas.

This guide has been developed to help you make the absolute most of this precious mine of information which is at your fingertips if you take the time to learn how to use it efficiently.

And best of all, it has all the ‘big names’ contributing regularly, and it is free of charge to use! What’s not to like?

So, if you have a question or a research dilemma, I encourage you to search the forum using this handy guide before posting, particularly if it is likely to be a commonly asked question or topic area.

For example, discussions around using software for your IPA analysis have been initiated multiple times over the years, and tips for viva prep have been requested many times. I will use both as a search examples in this article for that very reason.

NOTE: this article has been written for a desktop or laptop view of the IPA forum. You can access the forum on your mobile, but some of the search functionality is lost due to the small screen size. I recommend logging in on your laptop or desktop to get maximum functionality from this resource.

The basics of the IPA discussion forum

You can access the group’s home page and either sign up or log in by clicking here

I suggest that you bookmark this page for easy access!

This is what you will see:

If you scroll down to the bottom half of this page, you will notice the massive archive (indicated with the red arrow on the image above).

It goes back many years although I would argue that the last ten years are probably the most up to date and useful, especially since older posts have been imported from the previous platform (Yahoo Group) and are quite jumbled up and difficult to search.

NOTE: you cannot access the archive from this screen – you must log in and then the numbers for each month become ‘clickable’ when you hover over them.

I will cover how to search via the archive later in this article as there are much better and more targeted ways to search the forum than going through month by month.

Once you have logged in

You will see the home page again, but with the left-hand navigation tree now visible.

We will look at the most important tabs: Subscription, Messages, Hashtags and New Topic – see below where these are indicated with red arrows. 

Subscription

This tab takes you to the area where you can set your email delivery preferences. There are a variety of different options ranging from individual email delivery as they are posted, to various digests and summaries that you can receive, or no emails at all. It is really up to you to choose what suits you best.

Notice the other buttons just to the right of the Subscription tab – clicking on these enables you to add profile information (including a photo), integrate with Google Drive to save attachments added to the group, and check your email delivery history.

Further down the page you can add in an email signature if you wish.

Scrolling further down there are sections for Advanced Preferences and Member Notifications but I will not go into detail on these are they are not relevant for this guide – please do explore these options when you visit this tab. 

Messages

This is arguably the most important tab for our purposes.

There are several useful features on this tab that I will cover before going into the various ways you can search the forum archive from this page very effectively.

Firstly, here is a screen shot with several red and green arrows pointing to relevant features:

Please be aware of the following on the left of the list of posts, indicated using red arrows:

  1. The dark blue Messages button that presents a drop down when clicked
  2. The light blue #Hashtags button that also presents a drop down when clicked
  3. The grey Filter button that magically produces yet another dark blue drop down button out of nowhere when clicked

In the top right-hand corner of the page, please note the following, indicated using green arrows:

  1. The Msg# search box
  2. The regular Search box
  3. The Date button that changes the list organisation from most recent to oldest (it is set on most recent for the screen shot)
  4. The number of posts shown on this page and the total number of posts
  5. The forward and back buttons (< and >) to navigate the list of posts
Using the dark blue Messages button and drop down

When you click on the dark blue Messages button identified with the red arrow, you will see a drop down presenting you with options for Topics, Expanded and Polls. We will explore Topics and Expanded as these are the most likely to be useful to you.

Topics

If you click on this option, it helpful arranges the list of posts by topic or thread (see the red arrows on the image below).

It also helpfully tells you how many messages are in that topic or thread (see the orange arrows). 

This function can be super useful if you remember seeing something quite recently and want to read the thread without wading through all your emails, searching, or scanning the list of posts. 

Expanded

If you click this option, it expands the posts as they are listed chronologically on the page (as opposed to being in topics/threads with the Topic option) so that you can read them in full.

Using the light blue #Hashtags button

When you click on this button (see the red arrow) it provides a drop down with all the #hashtags used this far on the forum.

Hashtags have not been a very popular function in the group, so this list is limited.

If you tick the box for the # you wish to search and scroll to the bottom of the list and click ‘search’, you are taken to a page which lists the posts utilising that #

See below for an image of one of the #hashtags pages after searching.

Hashtags are also colour coded.

On this page you can further refine your search by clicking on the grey Tools button (indicated using a red arrow) which gives the Any Time dropdown as per the Filters button (see below) so that you can narrow your search in terms of timeframe/date, and you can also Collapse Topics (both indicated using green arrows). This latter option will take you to the pages where the original posts were listed.

Using the grey Filter button

When you click the Filter button (see the red arrow), another dark blue dropdown labelled Any Time magically appears as it does with the Tools button mentioned immediately above (see the green arrow). Clicking the Any Time dropdown reveals yet another dropdown that allows you to filter the list of posts in terms of timeframe as per the screenshot and indicated by the purple arrow.

This handy function can help you to locate posts that you have a rough timeframe for, or simply browse what has been going on in the recent past or any other timeframe if you fancy it. 

Searching via the messages tab

Probably the most important feature on this tab

There are multiple ways to search keywords and topic areas on the forum.

Searching via the Search box

I have used two examples to help illustrate this approach to searching the archive of the IPA forum. Both topics have recurred several times recently (at the time of writing) so I felt they would be useful to cover:

Example one: software

I put the keyword software into the Search box (indicated with the red arrow), pressed enter and this produced a long list of posts in the archive with this keyword either in the title of the post and/or in the body of the message. Notice that there are 431 results.

Clicking on the grey Tools button (indicated with the green arrow) reveals options to:

  1. Refine the search results via timeframe (dark blue Any Time dropdown with purple arrow)
  2. Organise the list via topic/thread (tick Collapse Topics – purple arrow)
  3. Exclude Signatures (tick the box – see purple arrow)

See below for the search results with the topics collapsed and therefore organised via threads. Notice this has reduced the number of results to 208 – much more manageable.

See below for the search results with the topics collapsed and Excluding Signatures. This has reduced it by a further two results to 206. 

Example two: viva preparation

I put the keywords viva preparation into the Search box, pressed enter and this produced a list of 17 posts in the archive with this keyword either in the title of the post and/or in the body of the message.

This is a more manageable results list, so I looked at various options to refine and other ways of searching to see how they matched up to this result.

You can again use the grey Tools button to refine as above for the software search.

The above image shows the Collapse Topics option, so the list is presented as threads with the number of messages in each thread listed (see the red arrows).

You can also refine by clicking on Relevance or Date to alter the way the list is presented to you – either in order of relevance or chronologically – see the green arrows to the left.

You can also use the Relevance function on larger results lists like the software search – in this case it presented the hashtag posts first for relevance.

Using Boolean operators: AND, OR and NOT

You can use Boolean operators to search if you are into this kind of thing.

The handy user manual from the help area on Groups.io (see below for the link) points out the following on page 31:

‘If you include these operators in your search query, you must put them in all uppercase (otherwise, the search engine assumes you are looking for those actual words). If you enter more than one word in the Search box, the AND operator is implied’

In theory, this should mean that using the Boolean AND in our example of viva preparation should turn in the same results, but in fact it added a result. See the image below.

Searching for exact phrases using inverted commas

You can also search for exact phrases by putting them in inverted commas. I thought I would try this for our viva preparation search to see what happens.

It wasn’t so helpful in actual fact and only turned up one result (see the image below).

It seems that using the two keywords as a phrase or perhaps using the Boolean AND but avoiding using inverted comas are the best strategies for this type of search.

However, practically speaking, perhaps it is best to run searches using all three strategies and see what you get.

Searching by message number

If you know the message number that you want to find (I often provide them in my articles and in my resources for workshop participants) then you can simply plug it into the Msg# box indicated with the red arrow on the image below.

Note that the message you are searching for by number will not be at the top of the page/list that you are presented with unless it happens to fall on the page break – you are offered a range of messages that will contain the one you are looking for. You may need to scroll down the page/list to find it.

It will be obvious as it has a vertical blue bar on its left edge. See the green arrow on the screenshot below.

Searching by group member

If you want to find a message from a particular/specific member of the forum, you can either:

  1. Search for their name (I often do this when preparing bits of content and know that a certain member has posted something useful) OR
  2. Find and expand a recent/any message/post from them, click on their name (indicated with the red arrow in the image below) and then click on the All Messages By This Member button (see the green arrow) to show everything they have posted as a list

This concludes our tour of the useful Messages tab.

There is so much you can do in here to mine the forum for information and guidance before you even need to send an email or make a post.

I really encourage you to spend some time rummaging around in here – I have spent many a happy hour down this rabbit hole!

#Hashtags

This tab shows all the hashtags that we have on the forum.

Notice they are colour coded and when you click on the block, all the posts with this hashtag are presented in a list. You can then refine using the various options (Any Time dropdown, Collapse Topics, Exclude Signatures) mentioned earlier.

The number of topics for each hashtag is listed in the bottom left-hand corner (see the green arrow).

You can mute them or turn on notifications if you are using the app (see the purple arrow).

You can add new hashtags using the blue button (see the orange arrow).

New Topic

This is where you post a new topic/start a new thread directly on the forum as opposed to just doing this via email (as many members do).

This is quite straightforward, so I won’t bang on, except just to mention the ability to add hashtags by clicking the blue button on the right (see the red arrow) which offers you a pop-up with a list from which you can select as many # as you want.  

If you need to add a new Hashtag which isn’t on the list, you will need to go into the Hashtags tab and add it there so that it shows on the list.

Searching posts via the archive (aka: how to crack a Brazil nut with a sledgehammer)

This is much less efficient way of searching the archive, but it is do-able so probably worth a mention. It could be good for just browsing recent threads.

If you scroll down the home page once logged in, you will see that the archive is now active and clickable.

You can use the archive from the home page if you know the month that the post/thread you are interested in was posted or if you are just interested to take a look at what has been posted/discussed recently or in any other month.

Simply click on the number for the archived messages for any month you are interested in, and it will take you to the start of that month in the messages tab. In the screen shot below, I have selected April 2024 as an example:

You will then need to navigate through the month to find the relevant post or message thread.

The archive for April will start at the beginning of the month and you can scroll through the month using the forward and back buttons in the top right-hand corner – see below for the red arrow showing you where they are.

Reminder: if you want to simplify the view, and list everything by topics or threads, then click on the blue Messages button at the top of the list of posts on the left (also indicated with a red arrow) to reveal the drop down and select ‘Topics’.

As mentioned before, this gives a collapsed view that is organised by threads and could be more helpful for searching in this manner via the archive. See how this looks below for the April 2024 example. Notice that it tells you how many messages there are in each thread.

The Grouips.io user manual that can be found in ‘Help’

There is a user manual, and this could be useful to read, although it is pretty long, and I have summarised what I think is the most useful functionality for you here.

Nonetheless you can download the manual by clicking here

Conclusion and final words

The IPA discussion forum is a wonderful resource packed full to bursting with helpful information, guidance, and resources, if you just know where to find it all!

This guide has aimed to assist you in getting the absolute maximum from the IPA group and making the most of all the knowledge buried in the archive.

I really encourage you to spend more time rummaging around. I know I have a ’special interest’ in IPA (I am a self-confessed IPA geek) and have therefore been known to lose hours (if not actual days) down this particular rabbit hole researching topics for content for my website and my training workshops, but I do urge you to avail yourselves of the golden nuggets and pearls of wisdom that can be found within.

Hopefully, this guide will inspire you to do so.

Always cheering you on,

Elena

Copyright © 2024 Dr Elena Gil-Rodriguez

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Disclaimer

The information contained in this article or any other content on this website is provided for information and guidance purposes only and is based on Dr Elena GR’s experience in teaching, conducting, and supervising IPA research projects.

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