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Improving precision and recall in study retrieval: A concept for thesaurus-based syntactic indexing

Presenter 1
Tanja Friedrich
GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences
Presenter 2
Pascal Siegers
GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences

Current practice in subject indexing of study descriptions in data catalogues often consists in assigning a limited number of non-linked subject terms. To control for semantic ambiguity and improve recall in retrieval, ideally a thesaurus is used to perform this task. However, this practice does not solve the problem of syntactic ambiguity in subject indexing, which is of particular relevance to questionnaire-based study descriptions. For example, the general terms attitude, behaviour, and experience may co-occur with subject terms like democracy, homosexuality, and religion without being apparent, to which of these subjects the attitudes, behaviours, and experiences have been enquired. This kind of syntactic ambiguity results in imprecise retrieval, in particular when in-depth indexing is employed. We suggest a concept of thesaurus-based syntactic indexing for study descriptions that aims at using high specificity and pre-coordination of terms with the intention of improving recall as well as precision in retrieval. We are working with role indicators (indicating general or subject terms) and with term linking in order to index concepts on the item or variable level (e.g. ‘democracy: attitude’; ‘homosexuality: behavior’; ‘religion: experience’). We plan to employ our concept of thesaurus-based syntactic indexing to enable sophisticated retrieval techniques like faceted searching.

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