Query Composition: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?

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TR Number
TR-93-19
Date
1993
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Department of Computer Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
Abstract

Project Envision, a large research effort at Virginia Tech, focuses on developing a user centered multimedia database from the computer science literature with full-text searching and full-content retrieval capabilities. User interviews indicate that people have trouble composing queries. Widely available boolean retrieval systems present problems with both syntax and logic. Natural language queries for vector space retrieval systems are easier to compose but users complain that they do not understand the matching principles used; users also complain that they have too little control over the search and fear being overwhelmed by an enormous retrieval set. We describe the Envision query window which has as a usability goal making query composition easy while increasing user control. Results of formative usability evaluation and subsequent redesign are discussed.

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