Subject categorization of query terms for exploring web users' search interests

Hsiao Tieh Pu*, Shui Lung Chuang, Chyan Yang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


Subject content analysis of Web query terms is essential to understand Web searching interests. Such analysis includes exploring search topics and observing changes in their frequency distributions with time. To provide a basis for in-depth analysis of users' search interests on a larger scale, this article presents a query categorization approach to automatically classifying Web query terms into broad subject categories. Because a query is short in length and simple in structure, its intended subject(s) of search is difficult to judge. Our approach, therefore, combines the search processes of real-world search engines to obtain highly ranked Web documents based on each unknown query term. These documents are used to extract cooccurring terms and to create a feature set. An effective ranking function has also been developed to find the most appropriate categories. Three search engine logs in Taiwan were collected and tested. They contained over 5 million queries from different periods of time. The achieved performance is quite encouraging compared with that of human categorization. The experimental results demonstrate that the approach is efficient in dealing with large numbers of queries and adaptable to the dynamic Web environment. Through good integration of human and machine efforts, the frequency distributions of subject categories in response to changes in users' search interests can be systematically observed in real time. The approach has also shown potential for use in various information retrieval applications, and provides a basis for further Web searching studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-630
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2002 Jun
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Artificial Intelligence


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