And finally….from the Editor

During the closing panel session of the Search Solutions conference in November Professor Iadh Ounis (University of Glasgow) highlighted the need to keep graduate and undergraduate courses updated in line with the very rapid developments in IR theory, development and practice. Around this time there was a Twitter thread about what might be the best textbooks to read to gain an introduction to IR. The most mentioned book in the replies was Introduction to Information Retrieval (Manning, Raghaven and Schütze 2010). Also published in 2010 was Search Engines – Retrieval in Practice (Croft, Metzler and Strohmann) and two years earlier Information Retrieval – Implementing and Evaluating Search Engines (Büttcher, Clarke and Cormack) was published. As far as I am aware the only more recent book has been Text Data Management and Analysis (Zhai and Massung) which was published in 2015. In the same year the second edition of my book on Enterprise Search was published by O’Reilly, followed by Searching the Enterprise (Kruschwitz and Hull 2017).

Since 2015 there seems to have been no broad-spectrum book on information retrieval along the lines of the 2008/2010 cohort, despite (or perhaps because of?) the dramatic advances in IR and IIR. On the user interface aspects of search I have a great deal of respect for Designing the Search Experience (Russell-Rose and Tate 2013), am less impressed with Search Interactions (Ryen White 2016) and have not yet read the recently published Search Interface Design and Evaluation (Liu, Liu, Liu and Berig 2021).

To me there seem to be three distinct markets for ‘text books’ (for want of a better description). The first of these is to support academic teaching and research, which has traditionally been the market targeted by the books listed above. The second is what I will term ‘applied information retrieval’ for IT managers and developers who need to understand the capabilities and future directions of IR within the context of delivering a range of search applications as part of a digital workplace stack. I remain surprised and concerned that the BCS does not publish a book for this market.  The third market is for a non-technical introduction to IR for people managing web sites, e-commerce applications, intranet search, professional search and enterprise search. For them the technology needs to be as invisible as possible.

There are some initiatives that I would like to mention. The Library at the University of Sheffield now as a Pressbook license with a view to publishing OA text e-books. Then there is the initiative by ISKO UK to offer a set of eight lectures on the fundamentals of information retrieval in February and March. The Search Network has been publishing an annual Search Insights report that is written for search managers and has a minimum of technology in the text. And if I could apologise for some self-publicity, I have written 134 enterprise search columns for CMSWire over the last eleven years. Having now handed on the baton to Agnes Molnar there is a categorized list of the 2018-2021 columns on my website. Perhaps the time has come to edit them into a textbook!

Martin White

About Martin White
Martin White

Martin is an information scientist and the author of Making Search Work and Enterprise Search. He has been involved with optimising search applications since the mid-1970s and has worked on search projects in both Europe and North America. Since 2002 he has been a Visiting Professor at the Information School, University of Sheffield and is currently working on developing new approaches to search evaluation.

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