Contextual information retrieval from the WWW
Contextual information retrieval (CIR) is a critical technique for today’s search engines in terms of facilitating queries and returning relevant information. Despite its importance, little progress has been made in its application, due to the difficulty of capturing and representing contextual information about users. This thesis details the development and evaluation of the contextual SERL search, designed to tackle some of the challenges associated with CIR from the World Wide Web. The contextual SERL search utilises a rich contextual model that exploits implicit and explicit data to modify queries to more accurately reflect the user’s interests as well as to continually build the user’s contextual profile and a shared contextual knowledge base. These profiles are used to filter results from a standard search engine to improve the relevance of the pages displayed to the user. The contextual SERL search has been tested in an observational study that has captured both qualitative and quantitative data about the ability of the framework to improve the user’s web search experience. A total of 30 subjects, with different levels of search experience, participated in the observational study experiment. The results demonstrate that when the contextual profile and the shared contextual knowledge base are used, the contextual SERL search improves search effectiveness, efficiency and subjective satisfaction. The effectiveness improves as subjects have actually entered fewer queries to reach the target information in comparison to the contemporary search engine. In the case of a particularly complex search task, the efficiency improves as subjects have browsed fewer hits, visited fewer URLs, made fewer clicks and have taken less time to reach the target information when compared to the contemporary search engine. Finally, subjects have expressed a higher degree of satisfaction on the quality of contextual support when using the shared contextual knowledge base in comparison to using their contextual profile. These results suggest that integration of a user’s contextual factors and information seeking behaviours are very important for successful development of the CIR framework. It is believed that this framework and other similar projects will help provide the basis for the next generation of contextual information retrieval from the Web.