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Monash University

FIT5166 Information retrieval systems - Semester 2, 2013

This unit presents students with the theory and practice underlying computerised information retrieval. Topics covered include: history and context of information retrieval systems, retrieval models, Boolean, vector space and probabilistic, evaluation strategies, test collections, web search engines, indexing, content-based multimedia retrieval and relevance feedback.

Mode of Delivery

Caulfield (Evening)

Contact Hours

2 hrs lectures/wk, 2 hrs laboratories/wk

Workload requirements

A rough estimate of the hourly commitment in this unit breaks down as follows:

  • 2 hours per week in lectures
  • 3 hours per week in associated reading and research
  • 2 hours per week in tutorial and/or lab classes
  • 2 hours per week averaged across the semester on assignments
  • 2 hours for the final unit examination

Additional to this would be time taken to study for the final exam.   These figures are just approximations but can be taken as a general guide.

Chief Examiner

Campus Lecturer


Campbell Wilson



Michael Niemann

Viranga Ratnaike

Shan (Dora) He

Campbell Wilson

Academic Overview

Learning Outcomes

At the completion of this unit students will:
  • appreciate the context and application of information retrieval systems;
  • understand the different models of information retrieval and their comparative advantages and disadvantages;
  • understand how objective and subjective evaluation strategies are used with information retrieval systems;
  • be conversant with the issues and challenges of managing very large collections of heterogeneous data for information retrieval;
  • understand how web search engines and search algorithms are constructed, utilised and deployed;
  • appreciate how to index different media;
  • understand how information retrieval systems can be used for the retrieval of audio-visual information;
  • appreciate the theoretical and practical underpinnings of relevance feedback in information retrieval systems.

Unit Schedule

Week Activities Assessment
0 This schedule is subject to change, please refer to the Lecturer for updates Only basic details are included in this guide. Please refer to the unit website (on Moodle) for details. Further information will be provided in the week 1 lecture. Assessment due dates may be subject to change. Any changes will be communicated to you by the Lecturer.
1 Introduction  
2 The Boolean Model and Simple Linguistic Analyses  
3 The Vector Space Model  
4 Web Search  
5 Evaluation  
6 Relevance Feedback  
7 Language Models  
8 The Probabilistic Model Assignment 1 (Implementation) Due
9 Text Classification  
10 Practical IR Assignment 2 (Report) Due
11 Content-based Image Retrieval Student Presentations
12 Advanced Topics Student Presentations
  SWOT VAC No formal assessment is undertaken in SWOT VAC
  Examination period LINK to Assessment Policy: http://policy.monash.edu.au/policy-bank/

*Unit Schedule details will be maintained and communicated to you via your learning system.

Assessment Summary

Examination (2 hours): 50%; In-semester assessment: 50%

Assessment Task Value Due Date
Information Retrieval System Implementation 20% (including interview) Week 8
Information Retrieval Report/Essay 25% essay, 5% presentation Week 10 with presentations in Weeks 11 and 12
Examination 1 50% To be advised

Teaching Approach

Lecture and tutorials or problem classes

Assessment Requirements

Assessment Policy

Faculty Policy - Unit Assessment Hurdles (http://www.infotech.monash.edu.au/resources/staff/edgov/policies/assessment-examinations/unit-assessment-hurdles.html)

Academic Integrity - Please see the Demystifying Citing and Referencing tutorial at http://lib.monash.edu/tutorials/citing/

Assessment Tasks


Please ask lots of questions during lectures and tutorials.   You won't be assessed on the quality of your questions, but you will get a lot more out of the unit!

  • Assessment task 1
    Information Retrieval System Implementation
    Implement a vector-space based information indexing and retrieval system.     The system must be written in Java.    More detailed specifications will be provided in week 2.
    20% (including interview)
    Criteria for assessment:

    The degree to which the assignment implementation matches meets the requires specifications.   Criteria also include an assessment of student understanding of their submission.

    Due date:
    Week 8
  • Assessment task 2
    Information Retrieval Report/Essay
    A 3,000 word essay on an approved research topic related to information retrieval.
    25% essay, 5% presentation
    Criteria for assessment:

    The report will be assessed on the usual criteria, namely: breadth of literature survey, quality of analysis of literature and topicality.

    Due date:
    Week 10 with presentations in Weeks 11 and 12
    Topics for the report will need to be pre-approved through the lecturer.   Details of this process will be provided in class.


  • Examination 1
    2 hours
    Type (open/closed book):
    Closed book
    Electronic devices allowed in the exam:

Learning resources

Monash Library Unit Reading List

Feedback to you

Types of feedback you can expect to receive in this unit are:
  • Informal feedback on progress in labs/tutes
  • Graded assignments without comments
  • Interviews
  • Quiz results

Extensions and penalties

Returning assignments

Resubmission of assignments

Students may generally resubmit assignments 1, 2, 3 and 4 any number of times before the due date.  More details will be provided in class.

Referencing requirements

Referencing should follow the IEEE style.

Assignment submission

It is a University requirement (http://www.policy.monash.edu/policy-bank/academic/education/conduct/plagiarism-procedures.html) for students to submit an assignment coversheet for each assessment item. Faculty Assignment coversheets can be found at http://www.infotech.monash.edu.au/resources/student/forms/. Please check with your Lecturer on the submission method for your assignment coversheet (e.g. attach a file to the online assignment submission, hand-in a hard copy, or use an online quiz). Please note that it is your responsibility to retain copies of your assessments.

Online submission

Details as to how to submit assignments 1, 2, 3 and 4 online will be provided in class.

Recommended Resources

Recommended reading will be provided during the lectures as appropriate.

Other Information


Graduate Attributes Policy

Student services

Monash University Library

Disability Liaison Unit

Students who have a disability or medical condition are welcome to contact the Disability Liaison Unit to discuss academic support services. Disability Liaison Officers (DLOs) visit all Victorian campuses on a regular basis.

Your feedback to Us

Previous Student Evaluations of this Unit

Student feedback as to what they believe would be improvements can be summarised as:

1. More recorded lectures

2. Less assignments

3. More mathematical training

Response for 2013:

1. We will endeavour to provide more recorded material during the semester, in particular for those concepts that could be considered more difficult.

2. Last year assignments were broken up into sections and automatically graded for some sections.    This approach is not being used in 2013.    There are less assignments in 2013, but the effective number of tasks remains the same.

3. A degree of mathematical literacy is assumed, and some aspects of the unit will necessarily require mathematical skills.   While there will be time to explain some basic concepts, students should be prepared to seek out extra learning resources that will help them with mathematics.    

If you wish to view how previous students rated this unit, please go to

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