Online Searching Without the Hassle

photo: Russell Lee Licong Cui and GQ Zhang

Go ahead and Google it: Conjunctive Exploratory Navigation Interface, or CENI for short.

What you'll find is a description of a new search tool offering an innovative way to organize and find information. Its Case Western Reserve developers think CENI will provide a complementary way to discover information not offered by general search engines such as Google.

"It's like a net: It will not let any fish go,'' says GQ Zhang, PhD, the project's principal investigator, a professor of computer science in the Case School of Engineering and division chief of medical informatics in the School of Medicine.

CENI is meant to be used to search a specific website or a computer, rather than the entire Internet.

An anonymous evaluation drew 90 participants through crowdsourcing to compare CENI and other search tools by looking for answers on a consumer-health website. The participants preferred CENI by a nearly two-to-one margin over Google and other search methods.

The details of its approach involve several steps: Basically, the CENI search tool uses exploratory navigation and multiple tagging to find the most relevant results rather than a general open search. Exploratory navigation uses structured menus, not search phrases or names, to find information. Tagging is akin to categorizing; for example, all items pertaining to sports on a newspaper website are tagged with the label "sports." Multiple tagging recognizes the fact that some sports items also have business relevance, for example, and should be tagged with the label "business."

Zhang and his team, including lead developer Licong Cui, a PhD student in computer science, began developing CENI about a year ago after a colleague asked about creating a better way to find information on the consumer-health website NetWellness ( CENI was used to reorganize and retag NetWellness questions, and then the crowdsourced users evaluated the resulting product.

Right now, the search tool isn't available for public use, but the university has filed a patent application, and Zhang and Cui hope to eventually make the tool more widely accessible. —Susan Valerian

Learn more:

About Professor GQ Zhang

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