Beyond Topic: Genre and Search

One of the central problems of information retrieval (IR) is the difficulty of matching a document to a query in the absence of any contextual information about the searchers and the document creators.  Genre is a context carrier and genre information can be exploited by information systems to improve their matching algorithms. The web hosts many recognised genres that can potentially provide this contextual information, including FAQs, press releases, product descriptions, instructions, guides, and reviews. Regardless of the evident benefits of being automated, genre identification within search results continues to be a manual and time-intensive activity that is primarily conducted by web users, who in most cases must manually filter search results to seek a particular genre. Although standard Google searches in the format [genre] [subject], e.g. “fiction tennis” “pictures deafness” or “newspaper sunspots” are likely to yield some useful hits, a genre-aware search engine would greatly increase precision and also potentially increase recall.

A long-term vision would be for all future information systems which depend on human information processing to move from topic-only analysis to being context-aware and genre-enabled. Genre is a challenge that needs to be addressed to fully incorporate communication context and human interaction in information systems.

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1 comment for “Beyond Topic: Genre and Search

    19 February, 2012 at 09:36

    From Digital Libraries LinkedIn Group

    cheikh fatima • very good

    Donde Smith • In terms of retrieval is this meant to be the next step from vertical search engines? For example, for focused genealogical research genealogists have the vertical search engine Mocavo which is “highly optimized for ancestry-related purposes.” Presumably Context carrier and genre information would allow Google (who I believe holds the patent for this) to retrieve just as focused relevant results assuming Google has access to all the same information as Mocavo.

    Marina Santini • @Donde: The first step is to use a genre-aware search engine within specific vertical search environments, such as academic search engines or web-based market forecast analysis that requires use of the genre “business reports”. The long-term vision is for the genre search approach to become an integral part of all future web search systems, including the main interfaces of Google and other major search engines.

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