Modeling positive and negative feedback for improving document retrieval

Shufeng Hao, Chongyang Shi*, Zhendong Niu, Longbing Cao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Pseudo-relevance feedback (PRF) has evident potential for enriching the representation of short queries. Traditional PRF methods treat top-ranked documents as feedback, since they are assumed to be relevant to the query. However, some of these feedback documents may actually distract from the query topic for a range of reasons and accordingly downgrade PRF system performance. Such documents constitute negative examples (negative feedback) but could also be valuable in retrieval. In this paper, a novel framework of query language model construction is proposed in order to improve retrieval performance by integrating both positive and negative feedback. First, an improvement-based method is proposed to automatically identify the types of feedback documents (i.e. positive or negative) according to whether the document enhances the retrieval's effectiveness. Subsequently, based on the learned positive and negative examples, the positive feedback models and the negative feedback models are estimated using an Expectation-Maximization algorithm with the assumptions: the positive term distribution is affected by the context term distribution and the negative term distribution is affected by both the positive term distribution and the context term distribution (such that the positive feedback model upgrades the rankings of relevant documents and the negative feedback model prunes the irrelevant documents from a query). Finally, a content-based representativeness criterion is proposed in order to obtain the representative negative feedback documents. Experiments conducted on the TREC collections demonstrate that our proposed approach results in better retrieval accuracy and robustness than baseline methods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-261
Number of pages9
JournalExpert Systems with Applications
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Pseudo-relevance feedback
  • Negative feedback
  • Positive feedback
  • Language model


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