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How does Semantic Search Differ from Traditional Keyword Searching?

by Bonnie Snow on Dec 11, 2018 11:44:54 AM

This comparison focuses on search capabilities for retrieval of biopharmaceutical data on federated search platforms intended to provide simultaneous access to multiple information resources.

Differences in Query-Building Capabilities

A keyword search retrieves only those documents containing the terms entered by the user. Results are likely to be incomplete, unless the query includes multiple variant, but synonymous, terms that could refer to the same concept in published documents. For example, a thorough search for articles citing the medical condition commonly known as “GERD” could not rely solely on the abbreviation to retrieve all relevant publications. Adding alternative terms to the query, such as “gastroesophageal reflux” OR “gastro-oesophageal reflux” OR “esophageal reflux” OR “acid reflux,” would find many more articles. Basic requirements for creation of effective search strategies dependent on keywords alone are:

  •  The user has prior knowledge of the subject under investigation
  •  The ability to anticipate variant language likely to be used in relevant documents

On the other hand, Semantic Search can simplify query building, because it’s supported by automated natural language processing programs that draw upon a knowledgebase of predefined vocabularies. These built-in “dictionaries” (also known as “ontologies”) enable a Semantic Search platform to recognize and interpret terminology typically found in user queries. Behind the scenes, keywords entered are cross-checked in the ontologies and all synonyms associated with the concept specified in the user’s query are automatically added as alternative terms to enhance retrieval.

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Topics: Ontologies, semantic search

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