Linguistic aspects of web queries

Bernard Jansen, Amanda Spink, Major Anthony Pfaff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)


Terms are the basic building block of queries for information retrieval systems, and queries are the primary means of translating user's information needs into a form that information retrieval systems can understand. As such, terms and how they are used in queries reflect the essential components of user's problem solving and decision making interaction with any information retrieval system. If the terms, their semantics, and the query syntax can be modeled, one could tailor the information retrieval system to confirm to this model, which may provide assistance to the user in finding relevant information. In pursue of this goal, we analyzed a transaction log containing over a million queries posed by over 200,000 users of Excite, a major Internet search service. We examined individual queries to isolate basic query structure syntactic patterns. Based on this analysis, we developed a linguistic model, classifying queries into five (5) general categories. Web queries are overwhelming noun phrases, usually in the form of a modifying noun followed by the modified noun. We conclude with the implications of this user model on system design of IR systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-176
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the ASIS Annual Meeting
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Library and Information Sciences

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