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Communications of the ACM

Design of tree structures for efficient querying

A standard information retrieval operation is to determine which records in a data collection satisfy a given query expressed in terms of data values. The process of locating the desired responses can be represented by a tree search model. This paper poses an optimization problem in the design of such trees to serve a well-specified application. The problem is academic in the sense that ordinarily the optimal tree cannot be implemented by means of practical techniques. On the other hand, it is potentially useful for the comparison it affords between observed performance and that of an intuitively attractive ideal search procedure. As a practical application of such a model this paper considers the design of a novel tree search scheme based on a bit vector representation of data and shows that essentially the same algorithm can be used to design either an ideal search tree or a bit-vector tree. An experimental study of a small formatted file illustrates the concepts.

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