Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Computer Engineering and Computer Science

Degree Program

Computer Science and Engineering, PhD

Committee Chair

Nasraoui, Olfa

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Altiparmak, Nihat

Committee Member

Altiparmak, Nihat

Committee Member

Frigui, Hichem

Committee Member

Cashon, Cara

Committee Member

Badia, Antonio

Author's Keywords

machine learning; explainability; recommender systems; tags


Black-box recommender system models are machine learning models that generate personalized recommendations without explaining how the recommendations were generated to the user or giving them a way to correct wrong assumptions made about them by the model. However, compared to white-box models, which are transparent and scrutable, black-box models are generally more accurate. Recent research has shown that accuracy alone is not sufficient for user satisfaction. One such black-box model is Matrix Factorization, a State of the Art recommendation technique that is widely used due to its ability to deal with sparse data sets and to produce accurate recommendations. Recent work has proposed new Matrix Factorization models that are explainable by incorporating explanations derived from semantic knowledge graphs, user neighborhood, or item neighborhood graphs into the model learning process. These Explainable Matrix Factorization (EMF) methods have the benefit of providing explanations without sacrificing accuracy. However, their explanations tend to be limited to only one explanation style. In this dissertation, we propose a framework comprising new machine learning methods to build explainable models that can make recommendations with multiple explanation-styles, by hybridizing multiple EMF models and by proposing new EMF models that explain recommendations using tags. The various pre-calculated explainability scores, leveraged in our proposed methods, have all been validated in prior work that conducted user studies to evaluate users’ satisfaction with each style individually. Unlike most existing work that generates explanations post-hoc, i.e., after the predictions have already been made, our framework is based on calculating explainability scores directly from available data, before the model is learned, and then using them as part of a regularization mechanism, to guide the model learning. Unlike post-hoc methods, our framework makes it possible to learn machine learning models that take into account the explanation scores, therefore ensuring higher transparency. Our evaluation experiments show that our proposed methods provide accurate recommendations while also providing users with multiple styles of explanations about how data was used to generate each recommendation. Each explanation style also provides additional decision-making information that empowers the user to either trust or scrutinize the recommendations. Although, rooted in the hybrid recommendation framework, our proposed methods make a significant step forward in explainable AI and beyond existing hybrid frameworks, because the proposed hybridization mechanisms make an intentional effort to take into account the individual models’ explanations and not only their output predicted ratings.