A survey on query auto completion in information retrieval written by Fei Cai and myself is online now:

  • Fei Cai and Maarten de Rijke. A survey of query auto completion in information retrieval. Foundations and Trends in Information Retrieval, 10(4):273-363, September 2016. Bibtex, PDF
    Author = {Cai, Fei and de Rijke, Maarten},
    Date-Added = {2016-01-27 11:52:34 +0000},
    Date-Modified = {2016-09-20 14:20:08 +0000},
    Journal = {Foundations and Trends in Information Retrieval},
    Month = {September},
    Number = {4},
    Pages = {273--363},
    Title = {A survey of query auto completion in information retrieval},
    Volume = {10},
    Year = {2016}}

In information retrieval, query auto completion, also known as type-ahead and auto-complete suggestion, refers to the following functionality: given a prefix consisting of a number of characters entered into a search box, the user interface proposes alternative ways of extending the prefix to a full query. Ranking query completions is a challenging task due to the limited length of prefixes entered by users, the large volume of possible query completions matching a prefix, and the broad range of possible search intents. In recent years, a large number of query auto completion approaches have been proposed that produce ranked lists of alternative query completions by mining query logs.

In this survey, we review work on query auto completion that has been published before 2016. We focus mainly on web search and provide a formal definition of the query auto completion problem. We describe two dominant families of approaches to the query auto completion problem, one based on heuristic models and the other based on learning to rank. We also identify dominant trends in published work on query auto completion, viz. the use of time-sensitive signals and the use of user-specific signals. We describe the datasets and metrics that are used to evaluate algorithms for query auto completion. We also devote a chapter to efficiency and a chapter to presentation and interaction aspects of query auto completion. We end by discussing related tasks as well as potential research directions to further the area.