Term Strength

Term Strength is a technique for Feature Selection in Text Mining

  • it doesn't need a pre-defined list of Stop Words - it discovers them automatically
  • so it's a technique for vocabulary reduction in text retrieval
  • this method estimates term importance based on how often a term appears in "related" documents

Strength of a term $t$

  • measures how informative a word is for identifying two related documents
  • $s(t) = P(t \in y \mid t \in x)$
  • for two related documents $x, y$ what's the probability that $t$ belongs to $y$ given it belongs to $x$?
  • estimate $s(t)$ on training data using Maximum Likelihood Estimation

What does it mean "related"?

  • if we know the labels of these documents, then related are those that belong to the same category
  • what about Unsupervised Learning?

Document Clustering

Can we use this for unsupervised learning?

How to find such $x$ and $y$?

  • manual or with user feedback - not practical

Can we automate it?

Yes (Wilbur1992):

  • use Cosine Similarity to find most related documents
  • set some threshold $t$ and let all pairs with cosine $> t$ be related

Then we can estimate $s(t)$ using Maximum Likelihood Estimation for Multinomial Distribution $$\hat s(t) = \cfrac{\text{# of pairs where $t$ occurs both in $x$ and $y$}}{\text{# of pairs where $t$ occurs in $x$}}$$


Let expected strength be $z = \mathbb E_t [s(t)]$

  • we estimate $z$ as $\hat z = \cfrac{1}{| V |} \sum\limits_{t \in V} s(t)$
  • let $\sigma = \text{sd}\big( s(t) \big)$ - how much $s(t)$ varies
  • we prune term $t$ if $s(t) \leqslant 2 \sigma \, z$


  • Aggarwal, Charu C., and ChengXiang Zhai. "A survey of text clustering algorithms." Mining Text Data. Springer US, 2012. [1]
  • Wilbur, W. John, and Karl Sirotkin. "The automatic identification of stop words." 1992. [2]
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