The singular – plural search term issue…

People overestimate how good they are at searching using search engines. Whilst many search engine deployments have improved, issues remain that many searchers are oblivious to.

For example, today (16th May 2020) I made the query ‘peru ignimbrite’ (a volcanic rock) to a well known scholarly search engine, 270 results were returned. I made the same query but plural ‘peru ignimbrites’, 372 results were returned. So someone only searching on the singular would miss 27% of relevant results.

There are more startling examples, this is not an isolated case. A query ‘Cyprus magnetic’ yielded 2,751 results. The plural ‘Cyprus magnetics’ returned only 60 results. So in this case someone only searching on the plural form would likely miss over 97% of all relevant results.

Anecdotal evidence suggests most enterprise search deployments face similar issues. These are solvable problems (and many deployments have addressed this). But until all do – searchers should be aware or risk missing critical information. Otherwise this may lead to unnecessary poor business decisions or health risks.

For peer reviewed published research on search literacy in the enterprise Here


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