Predicting the relevance of a library catalog search
Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology
Relevance has been a difficult concept to define, let alone measure. In this paper, a simple operational definition of relevance is proposed for a Web-based library catalog: whether or not during a search session the user saves, prints, mails, or downloads a citation. If one of those actions is performed, the session is considered relevant to the user. An analysis is presented illustrating the advantages and disadvantages of this definition. With this definition and good transaction logging, it
... is possible to ascertain the relevance of a session. This was done for 905,970 sessions conducted with the University of California's Melvyl online catalog. Next, a methodology was developed to try to predict the relevance of a session. A number of variables were defined that characterize a session, none of which used any demographic information about the user. The values of the variables were computed for the sessions. Principal components analysis was used to extract a new set of variables out of the original set. A stratified random sampling technique was used to form ten strata such that each new strata of 90,570 sessions contained the same proportion of relevant to nonrelevant sessions. Logistic regression was used to ascertain the regression coefficients for nine of the ten strata. Then, the coefficients were used to predict the relevance of the sessions in the missing strata. Overall, 17.85% of the sessions were determined to be relevant. The predicted number of relevant sessions for all ten strata was 11%, a 6.85% difference. The authors believe that the methodology can be further refined and the prediction improved. This methodology could also have significant application in improving user searching and also in predicting electronic commerce buying decisions without the use of personal demographic data.