An In-Depth Analysis of Tags and Controlled Metadata for Book Search

Toine Bogers, Vivien Petras

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


Book search for information needs that go beyond standard bibliographic data is far from a solved problem. Such complex information needs often cover a combination of di erent aspects, such as specific genres or plot elements, engagement or novelty. By design, subject information in controlled vocabularies is not always adequate in covering such complex needs, and social tags have been proposed as an alternative. In this paper we present a large-scale empirical comparison and in-depth analysis of the value of controlled vocabularies and tags for book retrieval using a test collection of over 2 million book records and over 330 real-world book information needs. We find that while tags and controlled vocabulary terms provide complementary performance, tags perform better overall. However, this is not due to a popularity e ect; instead, tags are better at matching the language of regular users. Finally, we perform a detailed failure analysis and show, using tags and controlled vocabulary terms, that some request types are inherently more di cult to solve than others.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of iConference 2017
Number of pages16
Publication date25 Mar 2017
ISBN (Print)978-0-9884900-4-8
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes
EventiConference 2017: Effect, Expand, Evolve - Wuhan, China
Duration: 22 Mar 201725 Mar 2017


ConferenceiConference 2017
Internet address


  • Book retrieval
  • Information needs
  • Controlled vocabularies
  • Social tags
  • User language matching


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