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Abstract

Relevant: Having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand.*

Relevance: The ability as of an information retrieval system to retrieve material that satisfies the needs of the user.

—Merriam-Webster Dictionary 2005

Relevance is a, if not even the, key notion in information science in general and information retrieval in particular. This two-part critical review traces and synthesizes the scholarship on relevance over the past 30 years and provides an updated framework within which the still widely dissonant ideas and works about relevance might be interpreted and related. It is a continuation and update of a similar review that appeared in 1975 under the same title, considered here as being Part I. The present review is organized into two parts: Part II addresses the questions related to nature and manifestations of relevance, and Part III addresses questions related to relevance behavior and effects. In Part II, the nature of relevance is discussed in terms of meaning ascribed to relevance, theories used or proposed, and models that have been developed. The manifestations of relevance are classified as to several kinds of relevance that form an interdependent system of relevances. In Part III, relevance behavior and effects are synthesized using experimental and observational works that incorporate data. In both parts, each section concludes with a summary that in effect provides an interpretation and synthesis of contemporary thinking on the topic treated or suggests hypotheses for future research. Analyses of some of the major trends that shape relevance work are offered in conclusions.