An evaluation of interactive Boolean and natural language searching with an online medical textbook

William (Bill) Hersh, David H. Hickam

22 Scopus citations


Few studies have compared the interactive use of Boolean and natural language searching systems. We studied the use of three retrieval systems by senior medical students searching on queries generated by actual physicians in a clinical setting. The searchers were randomized to search on two or three different retrieval systems: a Boolean system, a word‐based natural language system, and a concept‐based natural language system. Our results showed no statistically significant differences in recall or precision among the three systems. Likewise, we found no user preference for any system over the others. In the course of this study we did find, however, a number of problems with traditional measures of retrieval evaluation when applied to the interactive search setting. © 1995 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)478-489
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Society for Information Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1995


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)

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