Quality Control

Good tools for automatic and manual preparation of data are essential. However, the creation of a high-quality corpus depends just as much on such mundane things as documentation, training, and workflow. Annotation guidelines define the task and document the markup conventions. They may be regularly updated to cover difficult cases, along with new rules that are devised to achieve more consistent annotations. Annotators need to be trained in the procedures, including methods for resolving cases not covered in the guidelines. A workflow needs to be established, possibly with supporting software, to keep track of which files have been initialized, annotated, validated, manually checked, and so on. There may be multiple layers of annotation, provided by different specialists. Cases of uncertainty or disagreement may require adjudication.

Large annotation tasks require multiple annotators, which raises the problem of achieving consistency. How consistently can a group of annotators perform? We can easily measure consistency by having a portion of the source material independently annotated by two people. This may reveal shortcomings in the guidelines or differing abilities with the annotation task. In cases where quality is paramount, the entire corpus can be annotated twice, and any inconsistencies adjudicated by an expert.

It is considered best practice to report the inter-annotator agreement that was achieved for a corpus (e.g., by double-annotating 10% of the corpus). This score serves as a helpful upper bound on the expected performance of any automatic system that is trained on this corpus.


Care should be exercised when interpreting an inter-annotator agreement score, since annotation tasks vary greatly in their difficulty. For example, 90% agreement would be a terrible score for part-of-speech tagging, but an exceptional score for semantic role labeling.

The Kappa coefficient K measures agreement between two people making category judgments, correcting for expected chance agreement. For example, suppose an item is to be annotated, and four coding options are equally likely. In this case, two people coding randomly would be expected to agree 25% of the time. Thus, an agreement of

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