Automated retrieval and extraction of training course information from unstructured web pages

2010-11-09T09:30:36Z (GMT) by Daniela Xhemali
Web Information Extraction (WIE) is the discipline dealing with the discovery, processing and extraction of specific pieces of information from semi-structured or unstructured web pages. The World Wide Web comprises billions of web pages and there is much need for systems that will locate, extract and integrate the acquired knowledge into organisations practices. There are some commercial, automated web extraction software packages, however their success comes from heavily involving their users in the process of finding the relevant web pages, preparing the system to recognise items of interest on these pages and manually dealing with the evaluation and storage of the extracted results. This research has explored WIE, specifically with regard to the automation of the extraction and validation of online training information. The work also includes research and development in the area of automated Web Information Retrieval (WIR), more specifically in Web Searching (or Crawling) and Web Classification. Different technologies were considered, however after much consideration, Naïve Bayes Networks were chosen as the most suitable for the development of the classification system. The extraction part of the system used Genetic Programming (GP) for the generation of web extraction solutions. Specifically, GP was used to evolve Regular Expressions, which were then used to extract specific training course information from the web such as: course names, prices, dates and locations. The experimental results indicate that all three aspects of this research perform very well, with the Web Crawler outperforming existing crawling systems, the Web Classifier performing with an accuracy of over 95% and a precision of over 98%, and the Web Extractor achieving an accuracy of over 94% for the extraction of course titles and an accuracy of just under 67% for the extraction of other course attributes such as dates, prices and locations. Furthermore, the overall work is of great significance to the sponsoring company, as it simplifies and improves the existing time-consuming, labour-intensive and error-prone manual techniques, as will be discussed in this thesis. The prototype developed in this research works in the background and requires very little, often no, human assistance.