Introduction to Modern Information Retrieval (2nd edition)

Ali Shiri (School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta, Alberta, Canada)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 December 2004




Shiri, A. (2004), "Introduction to Modern Information Retrieval (2nd edition)", Library Review, Vol. 53 No. 9, pp. 462-463.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This is the second edition of this book titled Introduction to Modern Information Retrieval authored by Gobinda Chowdhury and Sudatta Chowdhury. Writing a book on information retrieval is a formidable task as the subject spans a broad range of topics, tools, techniques and technologies requiring the author to address a wide range of rapidly changing information environments. The authors note in their introduction that students of library and information science programmes are the target audience of the book. I believe this objective has been met given the breadth and relevance of the topics and issues discussed. It covers a broad‐ranging array of information retrieval themes and topics derived from traditional LIS techniques through to modern Web‐based technologies.

The book starts with the basics of information retrieval systems, the components of an IR system, database technology, and various bibliographic formats. This is followed by a comprehensive discussion of such issues as metadata and cataloguing, subject analysis and representation, indexing and abstracting, and vocabulary control. Within these sections readers are introduced to various classification schemes and metadata formats in use and the ways in which they have been employed within the new web information environment. A separate chapter deals with well‐known information retrieval models, namely Boolean, vector space, probabilistic, natural language processing and hypertext. It would have been helpful if the authors had briefly introduced some more recently developed information retrieval models such as fuzzy set, neural, inference or belief network models in order to inform the reader of the scope and scale of research in the area of information retrieval techniques.

Within this book the issue of user‐centred approaches to information retrieval is well handled with the exception of the evaluation section on which I will comment later. Three chapters discuss the role of users as regards information retrieval. Information needs, information use and the methodology for carrying out user studies are adequately discussed in a chapter. There is a brief discussion of the user‐centred information retrieval models proposed by such well‐known researchers as Dervin, Belkin, Saracevic, Ingwersen, Kulthau, Wilson, Ellis and Bates. The book briefly touches upon user interfaces and provides a few examples of Web‐based database interfaces.

There are two chapters on the evaluation of information retrieval. The first addresses the purpose and criteria for evaluation and a short discussion on recall and precision as evaluation measures. However, there is no discussion on the measures and issues involved in user‐centred evaluation of information retrieval systems. In particular, I was expecting to see references to two chapters of “Annual review of information science and technology” which have extensively addressed the user‐centered perspective of information retrieval research and analysis methods (Sugar, 1995; Harter and Hert, 1998). The second chapter focuses mainly on the “black box” evaluation approach that also acts as an introduction to major system‐centered evaluation projects such as Cranfield, SMART, STAIRS and TREC.

This is followed by chapters on online and CD‐ROM databases, multimedia information retrieval, hypertext and markup languages. Web information retrieval and the use of search engines for information retrieval as well as examples of natural language processing systems constitute later chapters. The information retrieval in digital libraries is a well‐written succinct chapter that serves two purposes. First, it touches on the design components and conceptual construct of a digital library. Second, it introduces the general search features of digital libraries and briefly reviews a number of digital library initiatives. The last chapter, titled “Trends in information retrieval”, highlights some of the recent trends which have been the focus of information retrieval research and are useful starting points for those who would like to gain an understanding of information retrieval research themes.

Overall, the book provides essential and useful reading on user‐centered information retrieval covering a whole range of IR issues written from a non‐technical perspective. I recommend this book not only to library and information science students but also to computer science undergraduates who plan to undertake research into information retrieval.


Harter, S. and Hert, C.A. (1998), “Evaluation of information retrieval systems: approaches, issues and methods”, in Williams, M.E. (Ed.), Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, Vol. 32, American Society for Information Science, Washington, DC, pp. 394.

Sugar, W. (1995), “User‐centered perspective of information retrieval research and analysis methods”, in Williams, M.E. (Ed.), Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (ARIST), Vol. 30, ASIS, Medford, NJ, pp. 77109.

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