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New Search Method Tracks Down Influential Ideas

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Princeton computer scientists David Blei and Sean Garrish

Princeton computer scientists David Blei (left) and Sean Garrish have developed a new method to search academic journals and other collections of documents, such as websites, to trace the origins and spread of ideas.

Credit: Frank Wojciechowski / Princeton University

Princeton University computer scientists have developed a method that uses computer algorithms to trace the origins and spread of ideas, which they say could make it easier to measure the influence of scholarly papers, news stories, and other information sources. The algorithms analyze how language changes over time within a group of documents and determines which documents had the most influence. "The point is being able to manage the explosion of information made possible by computers and the Internet," says Princeton professor David Blei.

Blei says the search method could eventually enable historians, political scientists, and other scholars to study how ideas originate and spread. The Princeton method enables computers to analyze the actual text of documents, instead of focusing on citations, to see how the language changes over time.

"We are also exploring the idea that you can find patterns in how language changes over time," Blei says.

From Princeton University
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Abstracts Copyright © 2010 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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