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Right now all the schools that are 'University of' are under 'U'. For example, 'University of Florida' is under 'U' instead of 'F'. Should 'University of Florida' be under 'U'?

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Please clear up what your question is. In your title, you ask if you should put them under "U", while in the body you ask ifyou should but them under "F" for Florida. That causes unclear answers, because it is not clear to which a "Yes" or "No" in an answer refers. –  André Dec 16 '13 at 10:29
    
Adam, I see you accepted an answer, and have updated your list since the last time I looked at it. I am interested in knowing about an automated version to the sorting described in your accepted answer. Being involved in answering your question and following the resonses, has lead me to my own automated solution, but requires extra database query and processing code. It's a good thing, I prefer vincebowdren's answer. –  Tom Pace Dec 16 '13 at 16:35
    
Why not put them in both spots? Also--for most applications it makes sense to have a long list be searchable/filterable, in which case it sort of doesn't matter where they are. –  Alex Feinman Dec 16 '13 at 19:25
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3 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

In short: No, because it makes it harder for the user to find an entry in the list.

In long: Many alphabetised lists use a slightly non-standard collation, in order to make the lists easier to use.

Example 1: When listing people, they are almost always sorted by surname (Smith, John, Mr) even though the surname is the last name as normally printed (Mr John Smith). This is because in the context of finding a person in a list, the surname is the most important bit of data.

Example 2: When listing surnames (e.g. in a directory), any starting with Mac or Mc are grouped together; this means that a user who isn't sure whether they're looking for MacIntyre or McIntyre only has to look in one place to find them.

Example 3: When listing musical band names (e.g. in a music shop), there are so many starting with "The" that the T section would be unhelpfully large. So for example The Beatles are found under B, and The Who are found under W (yes, really).

Example 4: When listing lochs in Scotland, there are so many beginning with "Loch" that the L section would be unhelpfully large. So for example "Loch of Aboyne" and "Loch Achray" are found under A.

In the case of universities, it's unhelpful to group them all under U because:

  1. There are so many that the U section would be unhelpfully large.
  2. Most users don't know whether the University of Nottingham is properly called "Nottingham University" or "University of Nottingham" or "The University of Nottingham" (and don't care that much); and having to search under T, U and N to find out would be unhelpful - so, many lists help the user by putting it under N.

A real life example from UCAS has the following list:

  • ...
  • University of Northampton
  • The University of Nottingham
  • Nottingham Trent University
  • ...
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"When listing people" ... assuming a western name collation. Things get tricky in, say, Iceland. –  Erics Dec 16 '13 at 10:17
    
In your "short" answer, you say "No", while your long answer suggests "Yes". Which is it? I guess it is unclear if you are answering the question from the title, or from the contents. –  André Dec 16 '13 at 10:26
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@André: The answer is No to the question in the title: "Should a list have 'University of' schools under U". The OP confuses things by putting it the other way around in their question description. Hopefully my full answer makes it clear what I'm saying. –  vincebowdren Dec 16 '13 at 12:27
    
@Erics: Agreed, I'm assuming an English-language context. The details will be very different in different cultures and contexts, but I suspect that every culture develops ways of tweaking alphabetical lists to make them better for purpose. If a culture doesn't use an ordered alphabet (e.g. Chinese), everything's very different of course. –  vincebowdren Dec 16 '13 at 12:33
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@TomPace: It's true that customising a list to be more user-friendly is, unavoidably, extra work. But if you weigh up the extra work you have to versus the extra work you'd otherwise be asking each of your users to do, it's worth it in many cases. –  vincebowdren Dec 16 '13 at 22:00
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I'd say YES to your title question. They should be grouped under U. The institutions would rely on their name as a brand and it wouldn't make sense to break up a brand.

More analytically thinking... The separation that you're asking about is similar to the word "The" and perhaps others that prefix so many things.

For argument's sake, would it make sense to re-list all of those universities as, for example:

  • Oregon, University of
  • Oklahoma, University of
  • the Pacific, University of

The last point is a perfect case where it may break down.

Should "University of the Pacific" be listed under P, T, or U?

The answer should be U.

If the band "The Who" had an public office, and were listed in the phone book, they'd not be "Who, The". :)

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+1 for mentioning 'brand'. –  Lg102 Jan 6 at 10:52
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No. If you go to a music stores, bands like 'The Who' and 'The Doors' are never slotted under the letter 'T'. I suggest that you disreagard prefixes like "School of...", "University of...", "Institute of..." etc.

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I disagree, and agree. Hahaha. What I mean is, I agree with the preference of The Beatles under B, and The Who under U, but in a grander perspective, many products sorted my name are purely alphabetical based on simplified sort. –  Tom Pace Dec 16 '13 at 16:20
    
Ah. Each unto his own :) –  letterhead Dec 16 '13 at 17:19
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