Personalizing web search results by reading level

Kevyn Collins-Thompson, Paul N. Bennett, Ryen W. White, Sebastian De La Chica, David Sontag

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Traditionally, search engines have ignored the reading difficulty of documents and the reading proficiency of users in computing a document ranking. This is one reason why Web search engines do a poor job of serving an important segment of the population: children. While there are many important problems in interface design, content filtering, and results presentation related to addressing children's search needs, perhaps the most fundamental challenge is simply that of providing relevant results at the right level of reading difficulty. At the opposite end of the proficiency spectrum, it may also be valuable for technical users to find more advanced material or to filter out material at lower levels of difficulty, such as tutorials and introductory texts. We show how reading level can provide a valuable new relevance signal for both general and personalized Web search. We describe models and algorithms to address the three key problems in improving relevance for search using reading difficulty: estimating user proficiency, estimating result difficulty, and re-ranking based on the difference between user and result reading level profiles. We evaluate our methods on a large volume of Web query traffic and provide a large-scale log analysis that highlights the importance of finding results at an appropriate reading level for the user.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCIKM'11 - Proceedings of the 2011 ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 2011
Event20th ACM Conference on Information and Knowledge Management, CIKM'11 - Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: Oct 24 2011Oct 28 2011

Publication series

NameInternational Conference on Information and Knowledge Management, Proceedings


Other20th ACM Conference on Information and Knowledge Management, CIKM'11
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • personalization
  • re-ranking
  • reading difficulty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • General Business, Management and Accounting


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