Faceted Search: how to go from a Static to a Dynamic Taxonomy

Posted on May 28, 2010


Many search engines used in portals are optimized to retrieve predefined, specific and precise specifications. For those instances, one must know exactly which words to use and the search result for these words will be very precise and accurate. This is “focalized” search. However, if one does not know exactly what words to use in the search, then traditional search tools will not help. For those instances, one requires “exploratory” search. See this entry for more information on the exact differences between focalized and exploratory search: https://zylab.wordpress.com/2010/03/26/understand-the-two-different-faces-of-search-exploratory-search-and-focalized-search/).

Focalized search techniques provide little to no ability to explore data; they assume the user knows the exact terms to investigate. They fit very well in a basic retrieval model, but for an exploratory model, one needs techniques that can deal with imprecise specifications and which, even more important, also are dynamic and self-adopting to changing environments and data-sets.

This is where a taxonomy can make a huge difference: when a collection of documents is full-text searchable, the end-user can find synonyms and other relevant words as suggested by the taxonomy.

A great example of the usefulness of a taxonomy for search can be found here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Browser/wwwtax.cgi?name=Archaea. As you can see, in addition to a simple search box, it is also possible to browse potential search phases by using an organized and hierarchical list of related words (e.g. the taxonomy). Compare this to the limited “one search box” approach where you have to guess what words to use for your query.

This is a huge help to researchers, especially in cases where they did not catalogue, classify, create or produce the documents themselves. This is exactly the reason why various governments around the world have a mandatory requirement for government websites to include a taxonomy in order to help  visitors navigate the information and find the right documents. Here is an example of that from Australian Government: http://www.egov.vic.gov.au/website-practice/information-architecture/information-architecture-taxonomies-archive.html).

If one has multiple taxonomies, they can also be seen as search facets, which all provide different insight into the data and allow the user to refine search results. This is also called faceted search (https://zylab.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/how-to-find-more/). By combining multiple facets in one search, dynamic filtering becomes a reality and searching becomes much easier!

Read more here: http://aiimcommunities.org/erm/blog/faceted-search-how-go-static-dynamic-taxonomy