Just 25 years ago, people researching a topic typically started with a visit to their library and a chat with the reference librarian. Today, with the help of an Internet search engine, they can answer almost any question whenever it occurs to them – but only if they can find the right keyword.
As any search engine user knows, finding that keyword can occasionally be frustrating.
“Oftentimes a keyword is strongly associated with a topic that the user is not interested in,” said Hongning Wang, a newly appointed assistant professor of computer science at the University of Virginia. “At other times, it’s simply difficult to reduce an abstract query to a meaningful keyword.”