Cover by Edward Loper, Steven Bird, Ewan Klein

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Evaluation

In order to decide whether a classification model is accurately capturing a pattern, we must evaluate that model. The result of this evaluation is important for deciding how trustworthy the model is, and for what purposes we can use it. Evaluation can also be an effective tool for guiding us in making future improvements to the model.

The Test Set

Most evaluation techniques calculate a score for a model by comparing the labels that it generates for the inputs in a test set (or evaluation set) with the correct labels for those inputs. This test set typically has the same format as the training set. However, it is very important that the test set be distinct from the training corpus: if we simply reused the training set as the test set, then a model that simply memorized its input, without learning how to generalize to new examples, would receive misleadingly high scores.

When building the test set, there is often a trade-off between the amount of data available for testing and the amount available for training. For classification tasks that have a small number of well-balanced labels and a diverse test set, a meaningful evaluation can be performed with as few as 100 evaluation instances. But if a classification task has a large number of labels or includes very infrequent labels, then the size of the test set should be chosen to ensure that the least frequent label occurs at least 50 times. Additionally, if the test set contains many closely related instances—such as instances ...

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