Examining the effectiveness of real-time query expansion

Ryen W. White, Gary Marchionini
2007 Information Processing & Management  
Interactive query expansion (IQE) (c.f. Efthimiadis, 1996) is a potentially useful technique to help searchers formulate improved query statements, and ultimately retrieve better search results. However, IQE is seldom used in operational settings. Two possible explanations for this are that IQE is generally not integrated into searchers' established information-seeking behaviors (e.g., examining lists of documents), and it may not be offered at a time in the search when it is needed most (i.e.,
more » ... during the initial query formulation). These challenges can be addressed by coupling IQE more closely with familiar search activities, rather than as a separate functionality that searchers must learn. In this article we introduce and evaluate a variant of IQE known as Real-Time Query Expansion (RTQE). As a searcher enters their query in a text box at the interface RTQE provides a list of suggested additional query terms, in effect offering query expansion options while the query is formulated. To investigate how the technique is used -and when it may be useful -we conducted a user study comparing three search interfaces: a baseline interface with no query expansion support; an interface that provides expansion options during query entry, and a third interface that provides options after queries have been submitted to a search system. The results show that offering RTQE leads to better quality initial queries, more engagement in the search, and an increase in the uptake of query expansion. However, the results also imply that care must be taken when implementing RTQE at the interface. Our findings have broad implications for how IQE should be offered, and form part of our research on the development of techniques to support the increased use of query expansion.
doi:10.1016/j.ipm.2006.06.005 fatcat:cchymb6gbrd3lnyvmvnhv4dqne