INST 734
Information Retrieval Systems
Fall 2014
Exercise E1

Try out three search systems from the list below and, for each, answer the questions that follow the list of systems. Be sure to try several types of searches (e.g., your personal interest, imagined academic or professional information needs, searches you see in Web logs, etc.) and to explore both basic and advanced search features (when the system provides multiple modes).

Here are the questions:
  1. How easy was it for you to learn to use the system?
  2. How useful would the system be in the hands of a subject matter expert (i.e., someone who knows their task well, and who knows the right words to use for things) but who is not a professional searcher (and thus does not have specific training in search strategies or in the query language of this particular system)?
  3. How useful would the system be in the hands of a professional searcher who is not a subject matter expert?
  4. How well were you able to determine what the system did and did have in its index? In other words, after you have completed a search, do you have a good sense for whether searching here had been sufficient or whether you would also need to use other search services that cover similar content if you really wanted to be sure you had done a comprehensive search?
  5. How well do you think you were able to control the balance between comprehensiveness with which the system searched the collection it does have indexed (recall) and the suppression of unwanted results from display to you (precision)?
You can take either a comparative (System A is better than System B for question 2) or absolute (System A was suitable for tasks a and b, but not c) approach to constructing your answer -- whichever style you prefer. Grading of this assignment will be done holistically, based on whether you uncovered interesting issues that could help to guide your exploration of system design issues this semester. This exercise should take you 2-3 hours, including writing up your answers to the questions).

After completing your assignment, please also write a paragraph introducing yourself to me and to your classmates. In this paragraph, please summarize which program you are in here (MIM, MLS, HCIM, Ph.D., something else?), what previous degree(s) you have earned, what computer programming languages you know (if any), why you are taking this class, what you hope to learn, and something interesting about yourself.

Please also look at the 20 readings in the "assigned summaries" for modules 2, 3, 4 and 5 (you can easily reach these from the schedule page) and let me know, in most-preferred-first order which 5 you would be most interested in reading. I will try to assign you one of those five. You must select at least one from each module (because if I didn't add this restriction, nobody would pick one from module 2!).

You should submit your assignment on ELMS. Instructions for doing this are on the course ELMS site.

Doug Oard
Last modified: Sun Sep 7 20:20:51 2014