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Chapter 7. Retrieval Models. Retrieval Models. Provide a mathematical framework for defining the search process Includes explanation of assumptions Basis of many ranking algorithms Progress in retrieval models has corresponded with improvements in effectiveness

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Chapter 7

Chapter 7

Retrieval Models

Retrieval models
Retrieval Models

  • Provide a mathematical framework for defining the search process

    • Includes explanation of assumptions

    • Basis of many ranking algorithms

  • Progress in retrieval models has corresponded with improvements in effectiveness

  • Theories about relevance


  • Complex concept that has been studied for some time

    • Many factors to consider

    • People often disagree when making relevance judgments

  • Retrieval models make various assumptions about relevance to simplify problem

    • e.g.,topical vs. user relevance

    • e.g., binary vs. multi-valued relevance

Retrieval model overview
Retrieval Model Overview

  • Older models

    • Boolean retrieval

    • Vector Space model

  • Probabilistic Models

    • BM25

    • Language models

  • Combining evidence

    • Inference networks

    • Learning to Rank

Boolean retrieval
Boolean Retrieval

  • Two possible outcomes for query processing

    • TRUE and FALSE

    • “Exact-match” retrieval

    • No ranking at all

  • Query usually specified using Boolean operators

    • AND, OR, NOT

Boolean retrieval1
Boolean Retrieval

  • Advantages

    • Results are predictable, relatively easy to explain

    • Many different document features can be incorporated

    • Efficient processing since many documents can be eliminated from search

  • Disadvantages

    • Effectiveness depends entirely on users

    • Simple queries usually don’t work well

    • Complex queries are difficult to construct

Searching by numbers
Searching by Numbers

  • Sequence of queries driven by number of retrieved documents

    Example. “Lincoln” search of news articles

    • president AND Lincoln

    • president AND Lincoln AND NOT (automobile OR car)

    • president AND Lincoln AND biography AND life AND birthplace AND gettysburg AND NOT (automobile OR car)

    • president AND Lincoln AND (biography OR life OR birthplace OR gettysburg) AND NOT (automobile OR car)

Vector space model
Vector Space Model

  • Documents and query represented by a vector of term weights

  • Collection represented by a matrix of term weights

Vector space model1
Vector Space Model

Vector Representation of Stemmed Documents w/o Stopwords

Vector space model2
Vector Space Model

  • 3-D pictures useful, but can be misleading for high- dimensional space

Vector space model3
Vector Space Model

  • Documents ranked by distance between points representing query and documents

    • Similarity measure more common (rather) than a distance or dissimilarity measure

    • e.g. Cosine correlation

Similarity calculation
Similarity Calculation

Q = (1.5, 1.0, 0)

  • Consider two documents D1 and D2,and a query Q

    • D1 = (0.5, 0.8, 0.3)

    • D2 = (0.9, 0.4, 0.2)

More similar to Q than D1

Term weights
Term Weights

  • TF-IDF Weight

    • Term frequency weight measures importance in document:

    • Inverse document frequency measures importance in collection:

    • Some heuristic modifications

Ensure non-zero weight



Relevance feedback
Relevance Feedback

  • Rocchio algorithm

    • Based on the concept of optimal query

    • Maximizes the difference between the

      • average vector representing the relevant documents, and

      • average vector representing the non-relevant documents

  • Modifies query according to

    • α, β, and γ are parameters

      • Typical values 8, 16, and 4

Vector space model4
Vector Space Model

  • Advantages

    • Simple computational framework for ranking

    • Any similarity measure or term weighting scheme could be used

  • Disadvantages

    • Assumption of term independence

    • No predictions about techniques for effective ranking

Probabilistic models
Probabilistic Models

  • According to [Greiff 02]

    • In probabilistic approaches to IR, the occurrence of a query term in a document D contributes to the probability that D will be judged as relevant

    • The weight assigned to a query term should be based on the expected value of that contribution

[Greiff 02] Greiff, et al. The Role of Variance in Term Weighting for Probabilistic Information Retrieval. In Proc. of Intl. Conf. on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM). 2002.

Probability ranking principle
Probability Ranking Principle

  • Robertson (1977)

    • “If a reference retrieval system’s (i.e., search engines) response to each request is a ranking of the documents in the collection in order of decreasing probability of relevanceto the user who submitted the request

    • “where the probabilities are estimated as accurately as possible on the basis of whatever data have been made available to the system for this purpose

    • “the overall effectiveness of the system to its user will be the best that is obtainable on the basis of those data.”

  • The Probability Ranking Principle, however, does not address how to estimate the probability of relevance

Bayes classifier
Bayes Classifier

  • Bayes Decision Rule

    • A document D is relevant if P(R | D) > P(NR | D), where P(R | D) and P(NR | D) are conditional probabilities

  • Estimating probabilities

    • Use Bayes Rule

    • Classify a document as relevant if

      • L.H.S. is the likelihood ratio of D being relevant

A prior probability

of relevance

based on the probability of

occurrence of words in D

that are in R

Based on the Bayes Decision

Rule P(R | D) > P(NR | D)

Estimating p d r
Estimating P(D | R)

  • Assume word independence and use individual term (di) probabilities

  • Binary (weights in doc) independence (of word) model

    • Document represented by a vector of binary features indicating term occurrence (or non-occurrence)

    • piis probability that term i occurs in relevant document, siis probability of occurrence in non-relevant document

Binary independence model
Binary Independence Model


of i not in NR


of i not in R


of i in R


of i in NR

  • Computing the likelihood ratio of D using pi and si

word i in D

(Same for all


word i not in D

Binary independence model1
Binary Independence Model

  • Scoring function is

    • Using logto avoid multiplying lots of small numbers

  • Query provides information about relevant documents

  • If there is no other information on the relevant set

    • pi is set to be a constant (= 0.5)

    • si (= ni/ N), where ni is the number of documents including i in the non-relevant set

    • si is approximated by the entire collection (= N), similar to the IDF-like weight

Contingency table
Contingency Table


where ri = number of relevant documents containing term i

ni = number of documents in a collection containing i

R = number of relevant documents in the collection

N = number of documents in the collection

Gives scoring function:

Language model lm
Language Model (LM)

  • According to [Zhai 04]

    • LM, which are based on statistical theory and natural language processing (NLP), have been successfully applied to the problem of ad-hoc retrieval

    • LM approaches estimate a LM for each document and then rank documents by the likelihood of the query according to the estimated LM

  • [Zhai 04] C. Zhai and J. Lafferty.A Study of Smoothing Methods for Language Models Applied to Information Retrieval. In ACM Transactions on Information Systems, Vol. 22, No. 2, 2004

Language model
Language Model

  • Unigram language model (the simplest form of LM)

    • Probability distribution over the words in a language

    • Generation of text consists of pulling words out of a “bucket” according to the probability distribution and replacing them

  • N-gram language model

    • Some applications (such as speech recognition) use bigram and trigram language models where probabilities depend on previous words

Language model1
Language Model

  • A topic in a document or query can be represented as a language model

    • i.e., words that tend to occur often when discussing a topic will have highprobabilities in the corresponding language model

  • Multinomial distribution over words

    • Text is modeled as a finite sequence of words, where there are t possible words at each point in the sequence

    • Commonly used, but not only possibility

    • Doesn’t model burstiness, i.e., a word retrieved once is often repeated

Lms for retrieval
LMs for Retrieval

  • 3 possibilities:

    • Probability of generating the query text from a document language model

    • Probability of generating the document text from a query language model

    • Comparing the language models representing the query and document topics

  • Models of topical relevance

Query likelihood model
Query-Likelihood Model

  • Rank documents by the probability that the query could be generated by the document model (i.e., same topic)

  • Given query, start with P(D | Q)

  • Using Bayes’ Rule

  • Assuming prior is uniform, unigram model

A prior probability

of document D

(Same for all documents)

Estimating probabilities
Estimating Probabilities

  • Obvious estimate for unigram probabilities is

  • Maximum likelihood estimate

    • Makes the observed value of fqi,Dmost likely

  • If query words are missing from document, score will be zero

    • Missing 1 out of 4 query words same as missing 3 out of 4


  • Document texts are a sample from the language model

    • Missing words should not have zero probability of occurring

  • Smoothing is a technique for estimating probabilities for missing (or unseen) words

    • Lower (or discount) the probability estimates for words that are seen in the document text

    • Assign that “left-over” probability to the estimates for the words that are notseen in the text


  • As stated in [Zhai 04]

    • Smoothing is the problem of adjusting the maximum likelihood estimator to compensate for datasparsenessand it is required to avoid assigning zero probability to unseen words

    • Smoothing accuracy is directly related to the retrieval performance:

      • The retrieval performance is generally sensitive to smoothing parameters

    • Smoothing plays two different roles:

      • Making the estimated document LM more accurate

      • Explaining the non-informative words in the query

Estimating probabilities1
Estimating Probabilities

  • Estimate for unseen words is αD P(qi | C)

    • P(qi | C) is the probability for query word i in the collection language model for collection C (background probability)

    • αD is a coefficient of the probability assigned to unseen words, depending on the document D

  • Estimate for words that occur is

    (1 − αD) P(qi | D) + αD P(qi | C)

  • Different forms of estimation come from different αD

Jelinek mercer smoothing
Jelinek-Mercer Smoothing

  • αD is a constant, λ

  • Gives estimate of

  • Ranking score

  • Use logs for convenience

    • accuracy problems multiplying small numbers

Where is tf idf weight
Where is tf-idf Weight?

  • Proportional to the term frequency, inversely proportional to the collection frequency

Dirichlet smoothing
Dirichlet Smoothing

  • αD depends on document length

    where  is a parameter value set empirically

  • Gives probability estimation of

  • and document score

Web search
Web Search

  • Most important, but not only, search application

  • Major differences to TREC news

    • Size of collection

    • Connections between documents

    • Range of document types

    • Importance of spam

    • Volume of queries

    • Range of query types

Search taxonomy
Search Taxonomy

  • Informational

    • Finding information about some topic which may be on one or more web pages

    • Topical search

  • Navigational

    • Finding a particular web page that the user has either seen before or is assumed to exist

  • Transactional

    • Finding a site where a task such as shopping/downloading music can be performed

Web search1
Web Search

  • For effective navigational and transactional search, need to combine features that reflect user relevance

  • Commercial web search engines combine evidence from 100s of features to generate a ranking score for a Web page

    • Page content, page metadata, anchor text, links (e.g., PageRank) and user behavior (click logs)

    • Page metadata – e.g., “age”, “how often it is updated, the URL of the page”, “the domain name of its site and the amount of text content”

Search engine optimization
Search Engine Optimization

  • SEO: understanding the relative importance of features used in search and how they can be manipulated to obtain better search rankings for a web page

    • e.g., improve the text used in the

      • title tag

      • text in heading tags

      • domain name and URL to contain important keywords

      • anchor text and link structure

    • Some of these techniques are regarded as not appropriate by search engine companies

Web search2
Web Search

  • In TREC evaluations, most effective features for navigationalsearch are:

    • text in the title, body, and heading (h1, h2, h3, and h4)

    • the anchor text of all links pointing to the document

    • the PageRank number

    • the in-link count

  • Given size of web, many pages will contain all query terms

    • Ranking algorithm focuses on discriminating between these pages

    • Word proximity is important

Term proximity
Term Proximity

  • Many models have been developed

    • N-grams are commonly used in commercial web search

  • Dependence model based on inference net has been effective in TREC - e.g.

  • Relevance models
    Relevance Models

    • Relevance model – language model representing information need

      • Query and relevant documents are samples from this model

    • P(D | R) - probability of generating the text in a doc given a relevance model

      • Document likelihood model

      • Less effective than query likelihood due to difficulties comparing across documents of different lengths

    Estimating the relevance model
    Estimating the Relevance Model

    • Probability of pulling a word w out of the “bucket” representing the relevance model depends on the n query words we have just pulled out

    • By definition

    Estimating the relevance model1
    Estimating the Relevance Model

    • Joint probability is

    • Assume

    • Gives

    Estimating the relevance model2
    Estimating the Relevance Model

    • P(D) usually assumed to be uniform

    • P(w, q1, . . ., qn)is simply a weighted average of the language model probabilities for w in a set of docs, where the weights are the query likelihood scores for those docs

    • Formal model for pseudo-relevance feedback

      • Query expansion technique