Retrieval effectiveness is the principal criterion for measuring the performance of an information retrieval system. The effectiveness of a retrieval system depends primarily on the extent to which it can retrieve wanted documents without retrieving unwanted ones. So, ultimately, effectiveness is a function of the relevant and nonrelevant documents retrieved. Consequently, 'relevance' of information to the user's request has become one of the most fundamental concept encountered in the theory of information retrieval. Although there is at present no consensus as to how this notion should be defined, relevance has been widely used as a meaningful quantity and an adequate criterion for measures of the evaluation of retrieval effectiveness. The recall and precision among various parameters based on the 'two-by-two' table (or, contingency table) were major considerations in this paper, because it is assumed that recall and precision are sufficient for the measurement of effectiveness. Accordingly, different concepts of 'relevance' and 'pertinence' of documents to user requests and their proper usages were investigated even though the two terms have unfortunately been used rather loosely in the literature. In addition, a number of variables affecting the recall and precision values were discussed. Some conclusions derived from this study are as follows: Any notion of retrieval effectiveness is based on 'relevance' which itself is extremely difficult to define. Recall and precision are valuable concepts in the study of any information retrieval system. They are, however, not the only criteria by which a system may be judged. The recall-precision curve represents the average performance of any given system, and this may vary quite considerably in particular situations. Therefore, it is possible to some extent to vary the indexing policy, the indexing policy, the indexing language, or the search methodology to improve the performance of the system in terms of recall and precision. The 'inverse relationship' between average recall and precision could be accepted as the 'fundamental law of retrieval', and it should certainly be used as an aid to evaluation. Finally, there is a limit to the performance(in terms of effectiveness) achievable by an information retrieval system. That is : "Perfect retrieval is impossible."
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