A concept search (or conceptual search) is an automated information retrieval method that is used to search electronically stored unstructured text (for example, digital archives, email, scientific literature, etc.) for information that is conceptually similar to the information provided in a search query. In other words, the ideas expressed in the information retrieved in response to a concept search query are relevant to the ideas contained in the text of the query.
Concept search techniques were developed because of limitations imposed by classical Boolean keyword search technologies when dealing with large, unstructured digital collections of text. Keyword searches often return results that include many non-relevant items (false positives) or that exclude too many relevant items (false negatives) because of the effects of synonymy and polysemy. Synonymy means that one of two or more words in the same language have the same meaning, and polysemy means that many individual words have more than one meaning.