Monday, October 20, 2008

Ranking Terms in a Thesaurus Database

As I have discussed in the previous posting, a thesaurus is very useful tool for users to efficiently search information in a database. The purpose that users look up the thesaurus is to find the right concept for their search. Do users really need a ranking scale to indicate the relevancy of the term they are looking for?

If the ranking makes sense to the users, it would be worthy doing so. For instance, when users search chemicals in databases, such as STN and Dialog, they would prefer to look up the term in the thesaurus first. By looking at the term indexed by the database producer, users would know how to create their search strategy. The ranking scale used by these databases is the number of records linked to the term. A term in a database could be ranked quite differently from it in another database.

If the ranking is based on a word partially matching with the indexing term, it would confuse users. For example, if users get the same ranking scale of different indexing terms because of partial word matching, users would conclude that these indexing terms are all equally relevant. That's not true. Some indexing terms are linked with more relevant records than others, how the thesaurus would help users to decide which term should be used to perform the search?

I would love to see a new systematical ranking system will be adopted in a thesaurus database.

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