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Grid-Based Interaction with Diversity Search

Funded by 7th Japan CORE projects (CORE-7), Microsoft Research Asia


The main claim of this project was that the underlying technology of diversity search can be exploited to support professionals who perform comparative or analytical tasks with iterative searches. A comparative search task often requires a multi-dimensional representation of search results (e.g., What are the world leaders’ agenda for global issues?). A use scenario is given below to highlight that the current search engine technology does not support a complex exploratory task. The project’s goal was to propose and develop a grid-based interaction model which explicitly encouraged searchers to formulate queries using a notion of instances and facets. The diversity search technology was also exploited to automatically retrieve instances and facets for a given topic. The project carried out a user study to evaluate the performance of the proposed system in the context of the NTCIR-9 VisEx Task.

Grid-based Search Interface

This project developed several versions of search interface based on the grid-based interaction model. Some of the highlights is described below.

Compoment Screenshot Description
Grid Search Interface image-center The interface is composed of three main areas, namely, Query Box, Document List, and Grid. When a user submits a query in Query Box using the proposed syntax, both Document List and Grid are shown with search results. There is a History button next to Query Box which allows users to revisit and rerun previous queries submitted in a search session.
Query Box and Cell Labels image-center The Grid area consists of Labels and Cells. Labels are derived from individual terms given in Query Box. Given that a user submits a query “Blair, Clinton (bar sign) Middle East Peace, Japanese Economy” to the interface, terms on the left part of a query (i.e., Blair and Clinton) are placed as a row label (Green Line), while terms on the right part (i.e., Middle East Peace and Japanese Economy) are placed as a column label (Purple Line).
Venn Diagram Presentation image-center The Grid Interface has multiple ways to present search results. One way is to divide keywords using a Venn Diagram so that searchers can analyse a set of common terms appeared in two cells as well as unique terms in individual cells. The example compares blair and Clinton in the context of middle east peace. The top and bottom are unique terms and middle is common terms.
Facet/Instance Suggestion image-center The latest version of the Grid Interface has a suggestion for facet or instance in the grid. When suggestions are available, the add button changes to a highlighted number that indicates a size of suggested terms. A user can click the button to see and select suggested labels, or create a new one. Currently the suggestion comes from Bing API, as suggested by the NTCIR-9 Intent Task.

Future Directions

This project proposed, developed, and evaluated an innovative interaction model to support exploratory search. Further techniques can be developed based on the model of this project. In particular, we are interested in investigating two complementary supports as follows.

  • Expander: This will be designed to retrieve and suggest instances for a given concept. For example, a user can type “prime ministers”, and the system can return a set of current/past prime ministers (e.g., tony blair, david cameron). This supports users to articulate items to compare.
  • Faceter: This will be designed to suggest a set of facets for a given set of instances. For example, a user can type “tony blair, david cameron”, and the system can return a set of possible aspects to compare them (e.g., age, party, agenda).

These additional functions will provide further supports for users who perform comparative search.


  • Joho, H. and Sakai, T. (2012) “Grid-based Interaction for Exploratory Search”. In: Proceedings of the Eighth Asia Information Retrieval Societies Conference (AIRS 2012), to appear.
  • Joho, H. and Sakai, T.: Grid-based Interaction for NTCIR-9 VisEx. In: Proceedings of the Ninth NTCIR Workshop Meeting on the Evaluation of Information Access Technologies (NTCIR-9), pp. 533-540, Tokyo, Japan. December 2011.
  • Joho, H. and Sakai, T.: Grid-based Interaction Model for NTCIR-9 VisEx Task (in Japanese), 7th Workshop of JSAI SIG-IC, December 2011.