Intelligent information retrieval from the World Wide Web using fuzzy user modelling
This thesis investigates the application. of fuzzy logic techniques and user modelling to the process of information retrieval (IR) from the World Wide Web (WWW). The research issue is whether this process can be improved through such an application. The exponential rise of information itself as an invaluable global commodity, coupled with .acceierating development in. computing and telecommunications, and boosted by networked information sources such as the WWW, has led to the development of tools, such as search engines, to facilitate information search and retrieval. However, despite their sophistication, they are unable effectively to. address users' information. needs. Also, as the-WWW can be seen as a dynamic, continuously changing global information corpus, these tools suffer from the problems of irrelevancy and redundancy. Therefore, in order to overcome these problems and remain effective, IR systems need to become 'intelligent' in some way. It is from this premise that the focus of this research has developed. Initially, theoretical and investigative research into the areas ofIR from electronic sources and the nature of the Internet (including the WWW) revealed that highly sophisticated systems are being developed and there is a drive towards the integration of, for example, electronic libraries, COROM networks, and the WWW. Research into intelligent IR, the use of AI techniques to improve the IR process, informed an evaluation of various approaches. This revealed that a munber of techniques, for example, expert systems, neural networks and semantic networks, have been employed, with limited success. Owing to the nature of the WWW, though, many of the previous AI approaches are inapplicable as they rely too much on extensive knowledge of the retrieval corpus. However, the evaluation suggested that fuzzy logic, with its inherent ability to capture partial knowledge within fuzzy sets, is a valid approach. User modelling research indicated that adaptive user stereotypes are a fruitful way to represent different types of user and their information need. Here, these stereotypes are represented as fuzzy sets, ensuring flexibility and adaptivity. The goal of the reported research. then, was not to. develop an 'intelligent agent' but to apply fuzzy logic techniques and user modelling to the process of user query formulation, in order to test the research issue. This issue was whether the application of these techniques could improve the IR process. A prototype system, the Fuzzy Modelling Query Assistant (FMQA), was developed that attempts intelligently to assist the user in capturing their information need. The concept was to refine the user's query before submitting it to an existing search engine, in order to improve upon the IR results of using the search tool alone. To address the research issue, a user study of the FMQA was performed. The design and conduct is reported in depth. The study results were analysed and the findings are given. The results indicate that,. for certain types of user especially, the FMQA does provide improvement in the IR process, in terms of the results. There is a critical review of the research aims in the light of the results, conclusions are drawn and recommendations for future research given.