Introduction to Information Retrieval

CS276: Information Retrieval and Web Search 

Pandu Nayak and Prabhakar Raghavan

Lecture 2: The term vocabulary and postings lists

Recap of the previous lecture

  • Basic inverted indexes:

    • Structure: Dictionary and Postings

    • Key step in construction: Sortingli>

  • Boolean query processing

    • Intersection by linear time “merging”

    • Simple optimizations

  • Overview of course topics


Plan for this lecture

Elaborate basic indexing

  • Preprocessing to form the term vocabulary

    • Documents

    • Tokenization

    • What terms do we put in the index?

  • Postings

    • Faster merges: skip lists

    • Positional postings and phrase queries

Recall the basic indexing pipeline

new slide

Parsing a document

  • What format is it in?
    • pdf/word/excel/html?

  • What language is it in?

  • What character set is in use?


     Each of these is a classification problem, which we will study later in the course.

     But these tasks are often done heuristically …

Complications: Format/language

  • Documents being indexed can include docs from many different languages

    • A single index may have to contain terms of several languages.

  • Sometimes a document or its components can contain multiple languages/formats

    • French email with a German pdf attachment.

  • What is a unit document?

    • A file?

    • An email? (Perhaps one of many in an mbox.)

    • An email with 5 attachments?

    • A group of files (PPT or LaTeX as HTML pages)

Token and Terms

TOKEN AND TERMS

Tokenization

  • Input: “Friends, Romans, Countrymen

  • Output: Tokens

    • Friends

    • Romans

    • Countrymen

  • A token is a sequence of characters in a document

  • Each such token is now a candidate for an index entry, after further processing

    • Described below

  • But what are valid tokens to emit?

Tokenization

  • Issues in tokenization:

    • Finland’s capital → 

    • Finland? Finlands? Finland’s?

    • Hewlett-Packard → Hewlett and Packard as two tokens?

      • state-of-the-art: break up hyphenated sequence.

      • co-education

      • lowercase, lower-case, lower case ?

      • It can be effective to get the user to put in possible hyphens

    • San Francisco: one token or two?

      • How do you decide it is one token?

Numbers

  • 3/12/91                Mar. 12, 1991                     12/3/91

  • 55 B.C.

  • B-52

  • My PGP key is 324a3df234cb23e

  • (800) 234-2333

    • Often have embedded spaces

    • Older IR systems may not index numbers

      • But often very useful: think about things like looking up error codes/stacktraces on the web

      • (One answer is using n-grams: Lecture 3)

    • Will often index “meta-data” separately

      • Creation date, format, etc.

Tokenization: language issues

  • French

    • L'ensemble    one token or two?

      • L ? L’ ? Le ?

      • Want l’ensemble to match with un ensemble

        • Until at least 2003, it didn’t on Google

        • Internationalization!
  • German noun compounds are not segmented

    • Lebensversicherungsgesellschaftsangestellter

    • ‘life insurance company employee’

    • German retrieval systems benefit greatly from a compound splitter module

        • Can give a 15% performance boost for German

Tokenization: language issues

  • Chinese and Japanese have no spaces between words:

    • 莎拉波娃现在居住在美国东南部的佛罗里达。
    • Not always guaranteed a unique tokenization
  • Further complicated in Japanese, with multiple alphabets intermingled

  • Dates/amounts in multiple formats

      End-user can express query entirely in hiragana!

Tokenization: language issues

  • Arabic (or Hebrew) is basically written right to left, but with certain items like numbers written left to right

  • Words are separated, but letter forms within a word form complex ligatures

  •                                        ← →    ← →                                  ← start

  • ‘Algeria achieved its independence in 1962 after 132 years of French occupation.’

  • With Unicode, the surface presentation is complex, but the stored form is straightforward

Stop words

  • With a stop list, you exclude from the dictionary entirely the commonest words. Intuition:

    • They have little semantic content: the, a, and, to, be

    • There are a lot of them: ~30% of postings for top 30 words

  • But the trend is away from doing this:

    • Good compression techniques (lecture 5) means the space for including stopwords in a system is very small

    • Good query optimization techniques (lecture 7) mean you pay little at query time for including stop words.

    • You need them for:

      • Phrase queries: “King of Denmark”

      • Various song titles, etc.: “Let it be”, “To be or not to be”

      • “Relational” queries: “flights to London”

Normalization to terms

  • We need to “normalize” words in indexed text as well as query words into the same form

    • We want to match U.S.A. and USA

  • Result is terms: a term is a (normalized) word type, which is an entry in our IR system dictionary

  • We most commonly implicitly define equivalence classes of terms by, e.g.,

    • deleting periods to form a term

      • U.S.A., USA ⌊ USA

    • deleting hyphens to form a term

      • anti-discriminatory, antidiscriminatory ⌊ antidiscriminatory

Normalization: other languages

  • Accents: e.g., French résumé vs. resume.

  • Umlauts: e.g., German: Tuebingen vs. Tübingen

    • Should be equivalent

  • Most important criterion:

    • How are your users like to write their queries for these words?

  • Even in languages that standardly have accents, users often may not type them

    • Often best to normalize to a de-accented term

      • Tuebingen, Tübingen, Tubingen    Tubingen

Normalization: other languages

  • Normalization of things like date forms

    • 7月30日 vs. 7/30
    • Japanese use of kana vs. Chinese characters
  • Tokenization and normalization may depend on the language and so is intertwined with language detection

  • Crucial: Need to “normalize” indexed text as well as query terms into the same form

Case folding

  • Reduce all letters to lower case

    • exception: upper case in mid-sentence?

      • e.g., General Motors
      • Fed vs. fed
      • SAIL vs. sail
    • Often best to lower case everything, since users will use lowercase regardless of ‘correct’ capitalization
  • Google example:

    • Query C.A.T.

    • #1 result was for “cat” (well, Lolcats) not Caterpillar Inc.

Normalization to terms

  • An alternative to equivalence classing is to do asymmetric expansion

  • An example of where this may be useful

    • Enter: window Search: window, windows

    • Enter: windows Search: Windows, windows, window

    • Enter: Windows Search: Windows

  • Potentially more powerful, but less efficient

Lemmatization

  • Reduce inflectional/variant forms to base form

  • E.g.,

    • am, are, is  → be

    • car, cars, car's, cars'    car

  • the boy's cars are different colorsthe boy car be different color

  • Lemmatization implies doing “proper” reduction to dictionary headword form

Stemming

  • Reduce terms to their “roots” before indexing

  • “Stemming” suggest crude affix chopping

    • language dependent

    • e.g., automate(s), automatic, automation all reduced to automat.


Porter’s algorithm

  • Commonest algorithm for stemming English

    • Results suggest it’s at least as good as other stemming options

  • Conventions + 5 phases of reductions

    • phases applied sequentially

    • each phase consists of a set of commands

    • sample convention: Of the rules in a compound command, select the one that applies to the longest suffix.

Typical rules in Porter

  • sses → ss

  • ies i

  • ational    ate

  • tional    tion

  • Rules sensitive to the measure of words

  • (m>1) EMENT

      • replacementreplac

      • cement cement

Other stemmers

  • Other stemmers exist, e.g., Lovins stemmer

    • http://www.comp.lancs.ac.uk/computing/research/stemming/general/lovins.htm

    • Single-pass, longest suffix removal (about 250 rules)

  • Full morphological analysis – at most modest benefits for retrieval

  • Do stemming and other normalizations help?

    • English: very mixed results. Helps recall but harms precision

      • operative (dentistry) ⇒ oper

      • operational (research) ⇒ oper

      • operating (systems) ⇒ oper

    • Definitely useful for Spanish, German, Finnish, …

      • 30% performance gains for Finnish!

new slide

Thesauri and soundex

  • Do we handle synonyms and homonyms?

    • E.g., by hand-constructed equivalence classes

      • car = automobile      color = colour

    • We can rewrite to form equivalence-class terms

      • When the document contains automobile, index it under car-automobile (and vice-versa)

    • Or we can expand a query

      • When the query contains automobile, look under car as well

  • What about spelling mistakes?

    • One approach is soundex, which forms equivalence classes of words based on phonetic heuristics

  • More in lectures 3 and 9

Language-specificity

  • Many of the above features embody transformations that are

    • Language-specific and

    • Often, application-specific

  • These are “plug-in” addenda to the indexing process

  • Both open source and commercial plug-ins are available for handling these

Dictionary entries – first cut

Faster postıngs merges:

Faster postıngs merges:
Skıp poınters/Skıp lısts

Recall basic merge

  • Walk through the two postings simultaneously, in time linear in the total number of postings entries

Can we do better? Yes (if index isn’t changing too fast).

Augment postings with skip pointers (at indexing time)

  • Why?

  • To skip postings that will not figure in the search results.

  • How?

  • Where do we place skip pointers?

Query processing with skip pointers

Suppose we’ve stepped through the lists until we process 8 on each list. We match it and advance.

We then have 41 and 11 on the lower. 11 is smaller.

But the skip successor of 11 on the lower list is 31, so we can skip ahead past the intervening postings.

Where do we place skips?

  • Tradeoff:

    • More skips →shorter skip spans ⇒more likely to skip. But lots of comparisons to skip pointers.

    • Fewer skips  few pointer comparison, but then long skip spans    few successful skips.


Placing skips

  • Simple heuristic: for postings of length L, use √L evenly-spaced skip pointers.

  • This ignores the distribution of query terms.

  • Easy if the index is relatively static; harder if L keeps changing because of updates.

  • This definitely used to help; with modern hardware it may not (Bahle et al. 2002) unless you’re memory-based

    • The I/O cost of loading a bigger postings list can outweigh the gains from quicker in memory merging!

Phrase queries and positiona...

Phrase querıes and posıtıonal ındexes

Phrase queries

  • Want to be able to answer queries such as “stanford university” – as a phrase

  • Thus the sentence “I went to university at Stanford” is not a match.

    • The concept of phrase queries has proven easily understood by users; one of the few “advanced search” ideas that works

    • Many more queries are implicit phrase queries

  • For this, it no longer suffices to store only

  • <term : docs> entries

A first attempt: Biword indexes

  • Index every consecutive pair of terms in the text as a phrase

  • For example the text “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” would generate the biwords

    • friends romans

    • romans countrymen

  • Each of these biwords is now a dictionary term

  • Two-word phrase query-processing is now immediate.

Longer phrase queries

  • Longer phrases are processed as we did with wild-cards:

  • stanford university palo alto can be broken into the Boolean query on biwords:

  • stanford university AND university palo AND palo alto

  • Without the docs, we cannot verify that the docs matching the above Boolean query do contain the phrase.

                                                                                    ↑   Can have false positives!

Extended biwords

  • Parse the indexed text and perform part-of-speech-tagging (POST).

  • Bucket the terms into (say) Nouns (N) and articles/prepositions (X).

  • Call any string of terms of the form NX*N an extended biword.

    • Each such extended biword is now made a term in the dictionary.

  • Example: catcher in the rye

                   N           X   X    N

  • Query processing: parse it into N’s and X’s

    • Segment query into enhanced biwords

    • Look up in index: catcher rye

Issues for biword indexes

  • False positives, as noted before

  • Index blowup due to bigger dictionary

    • Infeasible for more than biwords, big even for them

  • Biword indexes are not the standard solution (for all biwords) but can be part of a compound strategy

Solution 2: Positional indexes

  • In the postings, store for each term the position(s) in which tokens of it appear:


    <term, number of docs containing term;

     doc1: position1, position2 … ;

     doc2: position1, position2 … ;

     etc.>

Positional index example

  • For phrase queries, we use a merge algorithm recursively at the document level

  • But we now need to deal with more than just equality

Processing a phrase query

  • Extract inverted index entries for each distinct term: to, be, or, not.

  • Merge their doc:position lists to enumerate all positions with “to be or not to be”.

    • to:

      • 2:1,17,74,222,551; 4:8,16,190,429,433; 7:13,23,191; ...

    • be:

      • 1:17,19; 4:17,191,291,430,434; 5:14,19,101; ...

  • Same general method for proximity searches

Proximity queries

  • LIMIT! /3 STATUTE /3 FEDERAL /2 TORT

    • Again, here, /k means “within k words of”.

  • Clearly, positional indexes can be used for such queries; biword indexes cannot.

  • Exercise: Adapt the linear merge of postings to handle proximity queries. Can you make it work for any value of k?

    • This is a little tricky to do correctly and efficiently

    • See Figure 2.12 of IIR

    • There’s likely to be a problem on it!

Positional index size

  • You can compress position values/offsets: we’ll talk about that in lecture 5

  • Nevertheless, a positional index expands postings storage substantially

  • Nevertheless, a positional index is now standardly used because of the power and usefulness of phrase and proximity queries … whether used explicitly or implicitly in a ranking retrieval system.

Positional index size

  • Need an entry for each occurrence, not just once per document

  • Index size depends on average document size                    ←  Why?

    • Average web page has <1000 _tmplitem="94" terms

    • SEC filings, books, even some epic poems … easily 100,000 terms

  • Consider a term with frequency 0.1%

Rules of thumb

  • A positional index is 2–4 as large as a non-positional index

  • Positional index size 35–50% of volume of original text

  • Caveat: all of this holds for “English-like” languages

Combination schemes

  • These two approaches can be profitably combined

    • For particular phrases (“Michael Jackson”, “Britney Spears”) it is inefficient to keep on merging positional postings lists

      • Even more so for phrases like “The Who”

  • Williams et al. (2004) evaluate a more sophisticated mixed indexing scheme

    • A typical web query mixture was executed in ¼ of the time of using just a positional index

    • It required 26% more space than having a positional index alone

Resources for today’s lecture

  • IIR 2

  • MG 3.6, 4.3; MIR 7.2

  • Skip Lists theory: Pugh (1990)

    • Multilevel skip lists give same O(log n) efficiency as trees

  • D. Bahle, H. Williams, and J. Zobel. Efficient phrase querying with an auxiliary index. SIGIR 2002, pp. 215-221.