Elaboration and testing of new methodologies for automatic abstracting

  • Bernadette Sharp

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The primary objective of this research was to understand what kinds of knowledge and skills people use in `extracting' relevant information from text and to assess the extent to which expert systems techniques could be applied to automate the process of abstracting. The approach adopted in this thesis is based on research in cognitive science, information science, psycholinguistics and textlinguistics.
The study addressed the significance of domain knowledge and heuristic rules by developing an information extraction system, called INFORMEX. This system, which was implemented partly in SPITBOL, and partly in PROLOG, used a set of heuristic rules to analyse five scientific papers of expository type, to interpret the content in relation to the key abstract elements and to extract a set of sentences recognised as relevant for abstracting purposes. The analysis of these extracts revealed that an adequate abstract could be generated.
Furthermore, INFORMEX showed that a rule based system was a suitable computational model to represent experts' knowledge and strategies. This computational technique provided the basis for a new approach to the modelling of cognition. It showed how experts tackle the task of abstracting by integrating formal knowledge as well as experiential learning.
This thesis demonstrated that empirical and theoretical knowledge can be effectively combined in expert systems technology to provide a valuable starting approach to automatic abstracting.
Date of AwardOct 1989
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorF.E. Knowles (Supervisor)


  • automatic abstracting
  • natural language processing
  • expert systems
  • computational linguistics

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