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Negative search is the elimination of information which is not relevant from a mass of content in order to present to a user a range of relevant content.
Negative search is different from both positive search and discovery search. Positive search uses the selection of relevant content as its primary mechanism. Discovery calculates relatedness (between user intent and content) to present users with relevant alternatives of which they may not have been aware.
Negative search applies to those forms of searches where the user has the intention of finding a specific, actionable piece of information but lacks the knowledge of what that specific information is or might be.
Negative search can also apply to searches where the user has a clear understanding of negative intent (what they don't want) rather than what they do.
Examples of negative intent are:
- Job searching: someone knows they want a new job but they have no idea what it might be. They just know what they don't want.
- Online dating: someone is looking for a dating partner, but cannot identify what criteria they are looking for. They just know what they don't want.
- An investigator is looking for a car but has no other information on that car on which to base a search.