The Knowledge Engineering Review

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A survey on the use of relevance feedback for information access systems 1

a1 Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, G1 1XH; e-mail:
a2 Department of Computer Science, Queen Mary, University of London, London, E1 4NS; e-mail:

Article author query
ruthven i   [Google Scholar] 
lalmas m   [Google Scholar] 


Users of online search engines often find it difficult to express their need for information in the form of a query. However, if the user can identify examples of the kind of documents they require then they can employ a technique known as relevance feedback. Relevance feedback covers a range of techniques intended to improve a user's query and facilitate retrieval of information relevant to a user's information need. In this paper we survey relevance feedback techniques. We study both automatic techniques, in which the system modifies the user's query, and interactive techniques, in which the user has control over query modification. We also consider specific interfaces to relevance feedback systems and characteristics of searchers that can affect the use and success of relevance feedback systems.


1 We would like to express our thanks to Keith van Rijsbergen and Joemon Jose, who gave many useful comments on this survey. We would also like to acknowledge the helpful suggestions made by the anonymous reviewers.