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Relevance behaviour in TREC

Ian Ruthven (Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 7 October 2014

Issue publication date: 7 October 2014




The purpose of this paper is to examine how various types of TREC data can be used to better understand relevance and serve as test-bed for exploring relevance. The author proposes that there are many interesting studies that can be performed on the TREC data collections that are not directly related to evaluating systems but to learning more about human judgements of information and relevance and that these studies can provide useful research questions for other types of investigation.


Through several case studies the author shows how existing data from TREC can be used to learn more about the factors that may affect relevance judgements and interactive search decisions and answer new research questions for exploring relevance.


The paper uncovers factors, such as familiarity, interest and strictness of relevance criteria, that affect the nature of relevance assessments within TREC, contrasting these against findings from user studies of relevance.

Research limitations/implications

The research only considers certain uses of TREC data and assessment given by professional relevance assessors but motivates further exploration of the TREC data so that the research community can further exploit the effort involved in the construction of TREC test collections.


The paper presents an original viewpoint on relevance investigations and TREC itself by motivating TREC as a source of inspiration on understanding relevance rather than purely as a source of evaluation material.



Ruthven, I. (2014), "Relevance behaviour in TREC", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 70 No. 6, pp. 1098-1117.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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