Why do these make a huge difference in the quality of results?

Although our elastic search tries to find appropriate evidence from query understanding, our transformer-based models are semantics driven, and fed the exact query as written. Tips 1 and 2 are central to getting good results consistently. The remaining tips can help users format questions that increase consistency in answers.


Tip #1. Ask a formal question.

  1. Good Example: ‘What is a biotech company in Boston?’
  2. Bad Example: ‘Biotech companies in Boston’ or ‘show me biotech companies in Boston’

Tip #2. Address the system as if you were querying a single document and ask for singular examples.

Questions are taken very literally. If you ask the question ‘What are analogs for GLP-1-R?’ you might get answers like ‘long lasting’. But if you ask ‘What is an analog for GLP-1-R?” you get ‘liraglutide’ from the same source paragraph.

‘What are drugs in clinical trials for the treatment of Covid-19?” yields worse results than “What is a drug in clinical trials for the treatment of Covid-19?”

Drugs in clinical trials as a group are novel, and repurposed, and are already being prescribed by doctors.

A drug in clinical trials is hydroxychloroquine.

So, play around with wording if you find yourself getting some snarky answers back.

Tip #3. Avoid Qualifiers or a request for an opinion.

  1. Good Example: ‘What is a company that is researching drugs for Covid-19?’
  2. Bad Example: ‘What companies are most successful so far in finding effective drugs for Covid-19?’

Tip #4. Ask a single, simple question instead of a compound question.

  1. Good Example: ‘What company produces Albuterol?’
  2. Bad Example: ‘What is Albuterol and who produces it?’

Tip #5. Avoid time based questions and use the date filter instead.

  1. Good Example: ‘What is a company that has moved to Boston?’, filter data for search by date published.
  2. Bad Example: ‘What companies have recently moved to Boston?’

Tip #6. Be as specific as possible.

  1. Good Example: ‘What is a company that is researching drugs for the treatment of Covid-19?’
  2. Bad Example: ‘What companies are working on Covid-19?’


Tip #7. To force the system to require a certain word or phrases to be present in their exact form during elastic search querying, use single or double quotes around the word or phrase.

  1. Example: “What is a venture capital company in Boston?”
    Forced Behavior: “What is a ‘venture capital’ company in Boston?”
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