Does Search Advisor Depend Too Little on Classifiers, and Too Much on Algorithms, for Headnote Classification? Evidence on the Perils of Search Advisor's Automation and the Virtues of Thomson-West Classifiers

91 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2009  

Michael Ginsborg

Law Librarian

Date Written: August 1, 2007

Abstract

Search Advisor has just been renamed "Search by Topic or Headnote" to accommodate topical research of not just case law, but other sources of primary and secondary law that users may combine. I retain the name "Search Advisor" to signify the initial application of LexisNexis classification to a digest for case law - an application now represented by "Search by Headnote." In this three-part series, I present evidence that Search Advisor largely depends on word-matching-and-ranking algorithms for headnote classification. If my conjecture is right, then Search Advisor has a fatal flaw in design that compromises its usefulness as a classification system. By substituting algorithms for much of the work that we should expect classifiers to do, Search Advisor collapses from the weight of its automation. Whether my conjecture is right or wrong, I hope to renew appreciation of how classifiers make the Key Number System a uniquely valuable tool of case law research.

Keywords: Headnotes, Digest, Key Number, Search Advisor, Westlaw, LexisNexis

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K40

Suggested Citation

Ginsborg, Michael, Does Search Advisor Depend Too Little on Classifiers, and Too Much on Algorithms, for Headnote Classification? Evidence on the Perils of Search Advisor's Automation and the Virtues of Thomson-West Classifiers (August 1, 2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1345465 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1345465

Michael Ginsborg (Contact Author)

Law Librarian ( email )

Alameda, CA

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