This paper examines the relevance of the expert systems approach to information retrieval. First, the purpose and nature of expert systems are outlined, and it is argued that only in domains with relatively limited and clear‐cut rule‐sets will such systems be viable in the near future. The expert systems approach is then related to the provision of interfaces for OPACs and IR systems. Intermediary systems, designed to clarify through dialogue the terms of a client's information need, are described, and the prospects for such systems are discussed. It is argued that relatively straightforward ride‐sets should suffice, and that useful systems may therefore be available fairly soon. Since they could facilitate access to general as well as to specialised information, the potential demand for such systems would seem to be enormous.
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