The appropriateness of stratified hierarchic cluster methods
There are many other hierarchic cluster methods, to name but a few: complete-link, average-link, etc.
For a critique of these methods see Sibson.
My concern here is to indicate their appropriateness for document retrieval.
It is as well to realise that the kind of retrieval intended is one in which the entire cluster is retrieved without any further subsequent processing of the documents in the cluster.
This is in contrast with the methods proposed by Rocchio, Litofsky, and Crouch who use clustering purely to help limit the extent of a linear search.
Stratified systems of clusters are appropriate because the level of a cluster can be used in retrieval strategies as a parameter analogous to rank position or matching function threshold in a linear search.
Retrieval of a cluster which is a good match for a request at a low level in the hierarchy tends to produce high precision* but low recall*; just as a cut-off at a low rank position in a linear search tends to yield high precision but low recall.
Similarly, retrieval of a cluster which is a good match for a request at a high level in the hierarchy tends to produce high recall but low precision.
Hierarchic systems of clusters are appropriate for three reasons.
First, very efficient strategies can be devised to search a hierarchic clustering.
Secondly, construction of a hierarchic system is much faster than construction of a non-hierarchic (that is, stratified but overlapping) system of clusters.
Thirdly, the storage requirements for a hierarchic structure are considerably less than for a non-hierarchic structure, particularly during the classification phase.
Given that hierarchic methods are appropriate for document clustering the question arises: 'Which method?' The answer is that under certain conditions (made precise in Jardine and Sibson) the only acceptable stratified hierarchic cluster method is single-link.
Let me immediately qualify this by saying that it applies to a method which operates from a dissimilarity coefficient (or some equivalent variant), and does not take into account methods based directly on the object descriptions.
* See introduction for definition.
Single-link and the minimum spanning tree
The single-link tree (such as the one shown in Figure 3.5) is closely related to another kind of tree: the minimum spanning tree, or MST, also derived from a dissimilarity coefficient (Gower andRoss).