The impact of text browsing on text retrieval performance


The results from a series of three experiments that used Text Retrieval Conference (TREC) data and TREC search topics are compared. These experiments each involved three novel user interfaces (one per experiment). User interfaces that made it easier for users to view text were found to improve recall in all three experiments. A distinction was found between a cluster of subjects (a majority of whom were search experts) who tended to read fewer documents more carefully (readers, or exclusives) and subjects who skimmed through more documents without reading them as carefully (skimmers, or inclusives). Skimmers were found to have significantly better recall overall. A major outcome from our experiments at TREC and with the TREC data, is that hypertext interfaces to information retrieval (IR) tasks tend to increase recall. Our interpretation of this pattern of results across the three experiments is that increased interaction with the text (more pages viewed) generally improves recall. Findings from one of the experiments indicated that viewing a greater diversity of text on a single screen (i.e., not just more text per se, but more articles available at once) may also improve recall. In an experiment where a traditional (type-in) query interface was contrasted with a condition where queries were marked up on the text, the improvement in recall due to viewing more text was more pronounced with search novices. Our results demonstrate that markup and hypertext interfaces to text retrieval systems can benefit recall and can also benefit novices. The challenge now will be to find modified versions of hypertext interfaces that can improve precision, as well as recall and that can work with users who prefer to use different types of search strategy or have different types of training and experience.