Previously we discussed tf-idf as a way to calculate how relevant a search term
is given a set of indexed documents. When having multiple terms, we used
overlap score measure consisting in the sum of the tf-idf for each term in
the given input. A more general and flexible way of scoring multi-term searches
is using the vector space model.
In the vector space model, each document in the corpus is represented by a
vector. The search input terms are also represented by a vector. Scoring search
results consists then in vector operations between the documents vectors and the
search terms vector.
But what each of these vectors represent? Basically they define term
frequencies (or tf-idf in our implementation). That is, each dimension in a
given vector represents the term frequency
for a given term. Doing so, a document is represented in a multi-dimensional space
by a vector of the frequencies of each of the words in hte corpus. Equally, a
search query is represented by a vector in the same space but using the input
The following is a Python representation if this concept.
We use the same IrIdenx class and a boolean search schema. The difference is
when calculating scores. We don’t store a precalculated tf structure anymore
but operate vectors directly.
In terms of complexity, when indexing we have moved from:
Recalculate every tf entry when indexing a new document. This involves
lookup + sum for each term in the document.
Indexing stage: store a new document as a vectors of tf values. Here we save
the recalculation of tf entries.
So as we can see, the indexing stage is simpler (and more scalable) when using
the vector space model. This scalability gain when indexing is not to be
overlooked. In an index with hundreds of thousands or even millions of terms,
indexing a new large document and recalculating term frequencies at a global
scale can be costly. We could calculate term frequencies when searching instead,
but then using the vector space model makes even more sense.
Next the search and scoring part.
At search stage, we have moved from:
Calculate the idf and access the tf lookup table for each search term and
document hit. Sum the resulting tf-idf values for each document hit. This is
done using two for loops, one of them including another nested internal for
Access the index lookup table for any of the search terms and perform dot-
product with the resulting vectors. The later is an overhead introduced by this
approach in the search stage.
The new search stage has introduced vector dot products where there were just
sums (although using nested lopps) when the vector space model was not used.
However the data structures and their usage has been simplified. Note that we
build the vectors from pre-calculated dictionaries. Doing so we can determine
the dimensions form the search query vector.
Let us now recall our sample wine-related mini-corpus in order to see if we get
similar results using the new Vector Space Model. Remember that results are
given unsorted. Just pay attention to the scores.
Other benefits of the Vector Space Model
But what other benefits come with the vector space model? These are some of
Treating queries as vectors allows us simplifying data structures and
calculations. Where we used two dictionaries and loops, now we use a single
dictionary and linear algebra.
The compact and easy to operate vector representation leaves the door open to
different weighting and transformation schemas that were difficult to apply
before (or at least the result were not so clean).
Vectors can be the input of additional Information Retrieval and Machine
Learning techniques including supervised (e.g. classification) and unsupervised
(e.g. clustering, frequent pattern mining). You can find all the code for this notebook
where you can fork it and make it yours to experiment.