iSchool 141:   Search Engines: Technology, Society, and Business

   Readings and Assignments


Assignment 1


Each question should be answered in about 1 - 3 paragraphs.
  1. What are the key drivers to the use of a search engine? Explain the factors that lead to the use of a particular search engine.

  2. If you run a query on "apple" vs. on "apples" at a major search engine, you get quite different results on the first search results page. Try varying several one-word queries on major search engines, running the query first as a singular and then as plural noun. Attempt to summarize the kinds of differences you see in these two kinds of queries.

  3. In our in-class exercise, we didn't keep track of the positions that the words in the song titles held, but most indexers do record where in the document each word occurs (its position). Name three ways that search engines make use of the information about the positions of words in web pages.

  4. Some search engines are experimenting with innovative interfaces. Try out on a query like "kitty" or "jets", for example. Describe what the interface is doing. Based on what we've learned in class, and on your intuitions, discuss which aspects you think will work well, and which will not.

  5. Choose a web page that interests you, and then look at some of the anchor text in web pages that link to this page. Do they do a good job of summarizing the content of the page? List and describe the text on the anchor links to that page. (Hint: you can find which pages link to another page by using the site: command in the advanced search options of many search engines. But you'll still have to do some work to find the anchor text from the pages that are shown.)

  6. In the New York Times article, what do you think Amit Singhal means when he says: "Search over the last few years has moved from 'give me what I typed' to 'give me what I want'"?

  7. For the following queries, classify what you think the user intent is, using the taxonomy from the Rose and Levinson reading. Justify your answers.
    • banana
    • let it be
    • Why is my dog sick?

  8. Google has a tilde (synonym) operator, ~. Try out a few queries (that are not in the readings) and tell us what happens when you use it. How is the behavior of this operator related to the notion of ambiguity (and disambiguation) that we discussed in class?

  9. What would make mobile search (meaning search on small mobile devies like cell phones) tricky to do well from a usability perspective?

Homework Rules

You may discuss the homework questions with the TAs and other students, but your examples and your responses must be entirely your own.

Turning in your Homework

This assignment is due no later than 9:00am on Monday, Oct 8 2007.

Please name your homework document in the following way:


Turn in assignment online here