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)

Frigui, Hichem

Committee Member

Frigui, Hichem

Committee Member

Altiparmak, Nihat

Committee Member

Badia, Antonio

Committee Member

Cashon, Cara

Author's Keywords

Explainability; matrix factorization; recommender systems; popularity-bias


Recent years saw an explosive growth in the amount of digital information and the number of users who interact with this information through various platforms, ranging from web services to mobile applications and smart devices. This increase in information and users has naturally led to information overload which inherently limits the capacity of users to discover and find their needs among the staggering array of options available at any given time, the majority of which they may never become aware of. Online services have handled this information overload by using algorithmic filtering tools that can suggest relevant and personalized information to users. These filtering methods, known as Recommender Systems (RS), have become essential to recommend a range of relevant options in diverse domains ranging from friends, courses, music, and restaurants, to movies, books, and travel recommendations. Most research on recommender systems has focused on developing and evaluating models that can make predictions efficiently and accurately, without taking into account other desiderata such as fairness and transparency which are becoming increasingly important to establish trust with human users. For this reason, researchers have been recently pressed to develop recommendation systems that are endowed with the increased ability to explain why a recommendation is given, and hence help users make more informed decisions. Nowadays, state of the art Machine Learning (ML) techniques are being used to achieve unprecedented levels of accuracy in recommender systems. Unfortunately, most models are notorious for being black box models that cannot explain their output predictions. One such example is Matrix Factorization, a technique that is widely used in Collaborative Filtering algorithms. Unfortunately, like all black box machine learning models, MF is unable to explain its outputs. This dissertation proposes a new Cosine-based explainable Matrix Factorization model (CEMF) that incorporates a user-neighborhood explanation matrix (NSE) and incorporates a cosine based penalty in the objective function to encourage predictions that are explainable. Our evaluation experiments demonstrate that CEMF can recommend items that are more explainable and diverse compared to its competitive baselines, and that it further achieves this superior performance without sacrificing the accuracy of its predictions.