Learning to order things

William W. Cohen, Robert E. Schapire, Yoram Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

462 Scopus citations


There are many applications in which it is desirable to order rather than classify instances. Here we consider the problem of learning how to order instances given feedback in the form of preference judgments, i.e., statements to the effect that one instance should be ranked ahed of another. We outline a two-stage approach in which one first learns by conventional means a binary preference function indicating whether it is advisable to rank one instance before another. Here we consider an on-line algorithm for learning preference functions that is based on Freund and Schapire's 'hedge' algorithm. In the second stage, new instances are ordered so as to maximize agreement with the learned preference functions. We show that the problem of finding the ordering that agrees best with a learned preference function is NP-complete. Nevertheless, we describe simple greedy algorithms that are guaranteed to find a good approximation. Finally, we show how metasearch can be formulated as an ordering problem, and present experimental results on learning a combination of 'search experts,' each of which is a domain-specific query expansion strategy for a web search engine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-270
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Artificial Intelligence Research
StatePublished - 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Artificial Intelligence


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