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6.4. Display of search results

Search results for both Simple Search and Advanced Search are displayed as shown below, simply as a numbered list of titles of the documents found, ranked in order of likely relevance to the search terms. In this example (a search over All Libraries), legislation is found from Mongolia, Zambia (the Value Added Tax Act and Preferential Claims in Bankruptcy Act items), and Vietnam (the `Enterprise', `Social Matters' and `Taxation and Fee' legislation tables of contents - those items beginning `http://coombs'), as well as law reform reports from other jurisdictions (Canada and Australia), and Internet law index pages. The items are ranked in likely order of relevance

Example of the current display of search results

6.4.1. Proposed improvements to the display of search results

The present method of displaying results relies upon the remote site attaching informative titles to its HTML pages, as it is these titles that are displayed. While most sites do achieve this to a reasonable degree (as can be seen from the above example), some sites fail to provide any title at all, so that only the URL of the site can be displayed in default (eg item 11 above). This is not informative enough, so a number of alternatives are under consideration. One is to display the first 50 words or so of the document, similarly to what is done in Alta Vista. A second is to include the name of the database (added during the indexing process) from which each entry comes, after the display of the title, so it is at least easier to recognise which countries and systems particular items are from. These choices have significant processing overheads, and we are concerned not to unduly slow the delivery of search results.

Other proposed display options

Further utilisation of database and Library headings will make possible additional display options which allow search results to be displayed grouped by database of origin rather than by relevance ranking, in either long form or short form[133].

6.4.2. Relevance ranking

Search results are displayed with every web page that satisfies the search request listed in an estimated order of relevance to the search request.

In order to choose good search terms, it is useful to understand how the relevance ranking works:

There is a significant difference between Simple Searches and Advanced Searches in how the relevance ranking operates. In Simple Searches, any occurrence of even one significant word means that the document will be in the list of found documents. The results lists for Simple Searches are therefore likely to contain thousands of documents, only the first few of which are very relevant to the enquiry. A search for `bank and mortgage near chattel' will (since it ignores 'and' and `near') find over 2000 documents and try to rank them. In Advanced Searches, the only documents in the list of found documents are those that satisfy every aspect of the search enquiry, so only those are ranked. An search for `bank and (mortgage near chattel)' will find only 18 documents containing all three terms, and then rank them. They are not the same 18 as are ranked first in the Simple Search, because of the use of `near'.

As a rough rule of thumb, it will usually be worth looking at items that have a score of more than 50%, and not often worth looking at them if they have a score less than that. However, exceptions will occur, particularly with Advanced Searches. Results) .

[133] These display options are currentl y avaialable on AustLII as Boolean (Short Results) and Boolean (Long Rssults)

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