School of Information Sciences -- Faculty Publications and Other Works

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Online Vol. 18

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New, non-Boolean, natural language search techniques - Westlaw's WIN, DIALOG's TARGET, and Mead Data Central's FREESTYLE - are based on the assumption that the standard command-driven online systems coupled with Boolean logic searching are not only difficult to learn, but may sometimes miss relevant documents. Although each new product works somewhat differently, all 3 offer an alternative to searching with command interfaces and Boolean/proximity operators. They offer natural language input, with no need for commands or logical operators. This input method is coupled with so-called associative or statistical retrieval techniques that provide relevance ranking of search results. The question of how relevance search systems retrieve compared to the tried-and-true Boolean search engines is explored.


Reprinted in Karen Sparck-Jones and Pete Willet, eds. Readings in Information Retrieval. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufman Publishers, 1997.

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