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The Effect of Document Readability on Perceived Familiarity and Relevance

Gheorghe Muresan, Lu Liu, Michael Cole, Catherine L. Smith, Nicholas J. Belkin

Sparking Synergies: Bringing Research and Practice Together @ ASIST '05 (ASIS&T 2005)
Westin Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina, October 28 - November 2, 2005


The work reported in this poster is a follow-up of our participation in TREC

2004. We took part in the HARD track, which had the aim of taking into account various aspects of an information seeker’s context in order to improve IR performance and to obtain Highly Accurate Retrieval of Documents. Contrary to our expectations, our results showed that a user’s familiarity with a topic had no effect on the user preference with regard to selecting documents of certain levels of readability.

In the work reported here we tested the more general hypothesis that “People prefer more readable documents”. It appears that there is a significant connection between an objective measure associated to a document, namely readability, and subjective measures such as the estimated relevance of the document to a topic, or the estimated familiarity of a searcher to the topic of the document. While not sufficiently strong for readability to predict relevance of familiarity level, the connection has potential to improve search results ranking through “blind readability feedback”.

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