Dr. Christian M. Meyer

Combining Answers from
heterogeneous Web Documents

for Question Answering

Abstract. Currently, the in­for­ma­tion of the World Wide Web is mainly accessed with search engines. Recent studies showed that the usual keyword-in-context lists are not always the best choice for presenting the results. Additionally, an increasing amount of people uses search engines, without knowing how to formulate good queries. This master thesis therefore describes the design and implementation of a question answering system that generates a summarized answer for open-domain natural language queries. The system aims to increase the quality of existing systems by using heterogeneous documents from Wikipedia, Yahoo! Answers and Frequently Asked Questions.

Three main tasks have been identified: The first is passage extraction, which relies on semantic similarity and Hidden Markov Models for identifying irrelevant passages. Passage extraction obtains an average precision of 98% and recall of 81%. The second task calculates different clusterings for assigning a topic to each document. The best results have been found by combining k-means and Newman’s community clustering, which results in an average clustering purity of 88%. The final step combines three different rankings and selects the top ranked sentences for composing the summary. Besides the textual summary that is particularly useful for answering definition questions, a list of frequent n-grams and URLs is created to support also factoid and list questions. While working with heterogeneous data, combining different approaches has been observed to be crucial for benefiting from the individual advantages and alleviate differences in format, length, style, focus, relevance as well as problems of ambiguity and redundancy within the documents.

An evaluation of the resulting summaries has been done by comparing the system’s ROUGE scores with the two systems MEAD and START. User-generated answers from ask.com and Answerbag are used as a reference corpus. The evaluation shows that the system obtains the highest F-measure scores and leads to overall useful summaries. A t-test showed that the system’s ROUGE score improvements are significant.

Eingereicht: 28.04.2009
Screenshot of the QAweb system that I have been developed in my master thesis.
Screenshot of the QAweb system that I have been developed in my master thesis.