Information retrieval (IR) is the art and science of searching for information in documents, searching for documents themselves, searching for metadata which describes documents, or searching within databases, whether relational stand alone databases or hypertext networked databases such as the Internet or intranets, for text, sound, images or data. There is a common confusion, however, between data, document, information, and text retrieval, and each of these have their own bodies of literature, theory, praxis and technologies.
IR is a broad interdisciplinary field, that draws on many other disciplines. Indeed, because it is so broad, it is normally poorly understood, being approached typically from only one perspective or another. It stands at the junction of many established fields, and draws upon cognitive psychology, information architecture and design, human information behaviour, linguistics, semiotics, information science, computer science and librarianship.