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Abstract

This research explores the use of genre as a document descriptor in order to improve the effectiveness of Web searching. A major issue to be resolved is the identification of what document categories should be used as genres. As genre is a kind of folk typology, document categories must enjoy widespread recognition by their intended user groups in order to qualify as genres. Three user studies were conducted to develop a genre palette and show that it is recognizable to users. (Palette is a term used to denote a classification, attributable to Karlgren, Bretan, Dewe, Hallberg, and Wolkert, 1998.) To simplify the users' classification task, it was decided to focus on Web pages from the edu domain. The first study was a survey of user terminology for Web pages. Three participants separated 100 Web page printouts into stacks according to genre, assigning names and definitions to each genre. The second study aimed to refine the resulting set of 48 (often conceptually and lexically similar) genre names and definitions into a smaller palette of user-preferred terminology. Ten participants classified the same 100 Web pages. A set of five principles for creating a genre palette from individuals' sortings was developed, and the list of 48 was trimmed to 18 genres. The third study aimed to show that users would agree on the genres of Web pages when choosing from the genre palette. In an online experiment in which 257 participants categorized a new set of 55 pages using the 18 genres, on average, over 70% agreed on the genre of each page. Suggestions for improving the genre palette and future directions for the work are discussed.