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Refereed Papers

Track: Search

Paper Title:
Compare&Contrast: Using the Web to Discover Comparable Cases for News Stories


  • Jiahui Liu (Northwestern University)
  • Earl Wagner (Northwestern University)
  • Larry Birnbaum (Intelligent Information Laboratory, Northwestern University)

Comparing and contrasting is an important strategy people employ to understand new situations and create solutions for new problems. Similar events can provide hints for problem solving, as well as larger contexts for understanding the specific circumstances of an event. Lessons can be learned from past experience, insights can be gained about the new situation from familiar examples, and trends can be discovered among similar events. As the largest knowledge base for human beings, the Web provides both an opportunity and a challenge to discover comparable cases in order to facilitate situation analysis and problem solving. In this paper, we present Compare&Contrast, a system that uses the Web to discover comparable cases for news stories, documents about similar situations but involving distinct entities. The system analyzes a news story given by the user and builds a model of the story. With the story model, the system dynamically discovers entities comparable to the main entity in the original story and uses these comparable entities as seeds to retrieve web pages about comparable cases. The system is domain independent, does not require any domain-specific knowledge engineering efforts, and deals with the complexity of unstructured text and noise on the web in a robust way. We evaluated the system with an experiment on a collection of news articles and a user study.

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