<p>Purpose – This paper seeks to describe the preliminary studies (on both users and data), the design and evaluation of the K-Search system for searching legacy documents in aerospace engineering. Real-world reports of jet engine maintenance challenge the current indexing practice, while real users’ tasks require retrieving the information in the proper context. K-Search is currently in use in Rolls-Royce plc and has evolved to include other tools for knowledge capture and management.</p>\ud \ud <p>Design/methodology/approach – Semantic Web techniques have been used to automatically extract information from the reports while maintaining the original context, allowing a more focused retrieval than with more traditional techniques. The paper combines semantic search with classical information retrieval to increase search effectiveness. An innovative user interface has been designed to take advantage of this hybrid search technique. The interface is designed to allow a flexible and\ud personal approach to searching legacy data.</p>\ud \ud <p>Findings – The user evaluation showed that the system is effective and well received by users. It also shows that different people look at the same data in different ways and make different use of the same system depending on their individual needs, influenced by their job profile and personal attitude.</p>\ud \ud <p>Research limitations/implications – This study focuses on a specific case of an enterprise working in aerospace engineering. Although the findings are likely to be shared with other engineering domains (e.g. mechanical, electronic), the study does not expand the evaluation to different settings.</p>\ud \ud <p>Originality/value – The study shows how real context of use can provide new and unexpected challenges to researchers and how effective solutions can then be adopted and used in organizations.</p
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