Is there common formal definition of Document in information retrieval field? In many researches authors don't define the term Document(maybe because it is evident for them). Wikipedia says "text file, document (computer science) a computer file that contains text" but it doesn't seem as common formal definition.

Do you know the common formal definition of Document, or, if not, do you know any researches where that term was defined?

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    $\begingroup$ Why do you want a formal definition of document? What do you plan to use this definition for? What good would knowing this definition do you? Personally, I don't see why the information retrieval field needs a formal definition of document. $\endgroup$
    – Peter Shor
    Aug 19, 2013 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ I'm going to make some research in text mining. It's difficult for me to use the term without its definition $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2013 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterShor: perhaps because many IR measures (recall precision, ...) are based on the number of relevant/non-relevant/retrieved/... documents. Originally a document was synonymous of "unstructured text". Nowadays it is a more general term (it can be a multimedia file, a web page, ...) and you can see it like "unit of information on a particular subject" that can satisfy (or help to satisfy) the information need of the user that queries the IR-system. $\endgroup$
    – Vor
    Aug 19, 2013 at 21:14
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    $\begingroup$ some/many IR methods eg LSA/LSI regard a document as a "set of words [symbol strings separated by space, punctuation etc]" $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Aug 23, 2013 at 17:14

1 Answer 1


For a formal definition of document in the Information Retrieval context, you can look at IR glossaries.

A common definition is:

Document: Specific unit of retrieval (usually text). It can be a web page, an article, a book, a section or chapter.

(see for example the Glossary of the book Modern Information Retrieval by Ricardo Baeza-Yates and Berthier Ribeiro-Neto)


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