Maximizing Relevant Retrieval

By Tomaiuolo, Nicholas G.; Packer, Joan | Online, November/December 1998 | Go to article overview

Maximizing Relevant Retrieval


Tomaiuolo, Nicholas G., Packer, Joan, Online


The common wisdom among search professionals is that Boolean searching is the most practical approach to locating relevant information from bibliographic databases. But is it?

Today's information professionals are using natural language searching with Web search engines, such as AltaVista and Excite, and to a lesser extent with TARGET (Dialog) and FreeStyle (LEXIS-NEXIS). Natural language search systems identify relevant retrieval differently, and those who configure the natural language search software reveal very little about its process. As Barbara Quint said in a 1994 article in Wilson Library Bulletin, natural language systems use a "complex series of algorithms to analyze statistical counts of terms (the number af terms in each document, frequency of terms in the document compared to frequency of terms in the database, etc.). The more often a concept appears in a document, the greater weight it is given." She also said "Documents with phrases where query words occur closer together are ranked more highly than documents in which the query words are scattered. These statistical techniques are in turn used to drag the most relevant references to the top of the list" I Ii.

In an ONLINE article in May 1994, Carol Tenopir and Pam Cahn suggested using relevance searching in situations where the searcher is only looking for "a few high relevant items" or when "concepts are of unequal weight" [2]. According to Susan Feldman in another ONLINE article, "Good relevance ranking systems return what you ask for, as well as what you almost asked for, and sometimes what you didn't ask for, but wish you had" [3]. Natural language searching is good for vague or broad questions. The searcher must be willing to tolerate less relevant and even unrelated items in the retrieved set.

NATURAL LANGUAGE OR BOOLEAN?

Relevance ranking/natural language searching and Boolean searching are not mutually exclusive. Natural language is easier for end-users to use and it can outperform Boolean "by expanding the recall/precision envelope" [3]. And, while Boolean searches are precise, natural language searches are comprehensive.

To achieve the best overall results, sometimes even professional searchers need to employ both natural language searching and Boolean searching, according to the results of our test searches run recently in EBSCOhost.

A HEAD-TO-HEAD COMPARISON

To test the difference in retrieval for each type of searching, we ran 100 searches using the EBSCOhost fulltext Academic Elite database. Each search was run twice-once in the Boolean mode and then again in the natural language search mode. We printed and compared the first ten hits retrieved in each mode, evaluating accuracy, relevance, and overlapping citations.

The topics for the 100 queries were taken from newspaper headlines, Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature subject headings, and questions asked at our library reference desk.

EBSCOhost's Academic Search Full-Text Elite has indexing and abstracting for 3,100 journals, including 1,000 full-text. It can run in two modes: Keyword Search (allows Boolean operators) and Natural Language Search. EBSCOhost defines its natural language system as follows: "allows the user to query the database using words, phrases or even complete sentences. The results of a query are presented in ranked order with the most relevant article being presented first. A result can be found even if the record does not contain all of the words from the query. The more words that appear in an article, the more relevant the record is and the closer to the top of the Result List it will appear."

The librarians formulated the appropriate Boolean query or proximity search for each topic. An example of a Boolean search is (Jones OR Lewinsky) AND CLinton. A proximity search could be phrased as gettysburg address. The searchers inspected the first ten retrieved citations from each search. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Maximizing Relevant Retrieval
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.