A pipeline and comparative study of 12 machine learning models for text classification

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Text-based communication is highly favoured as a communication method, especially in business environments. As a result, it is often abused by sending malicious messages, e.g., spam emails, to deceive users into relaying personal information, including online accounts credentials or banking details. For this reason, many machine learning methods for text classification have been proposed and incorporated into the services of most email providers. However, optimising text classification algorithms and finding the right tradeoff on their aggressiveness is still a major research problem.

We present an updated survey of 12 machine learning text classifiers applied to a public spam corpus. A new pipeline is proposed to optimise hyperparameter selection and improve the models’ performance by applying specific methods (based on natural language processing) in the preprocessing stage.

Our study aims to provide a new methodology to investigate and optimise the effect of different feature sizes and hyperparameters in machine learning classifiers that are widely used in text classification problems. The classifiers are tested and evaluated on different metrics including F-score (accuracy), precision, recall, and run time. By analysing all these aspects, we show how the proposed pipeline can be used to achieve a good accuracy towards spam filtering on the Enron dataset, a widely used public email corpus. Statistical tests and explainability techniques are applied to provide a robust analysis of the proposed pipeline and interpret the classification outcomes of the 12 machine learning models, also identifying words that drive the classification results. Our analysis shows that it is possible to identify an effective machine learning model to classify the Enron dataset with an F-score of 94%. All data, models, and code used in this work are available on GitHub at https://github.com/Angione-Lab/12-machine-learning-models-for-text-classification.
Original languageEnglish
Article number117193
JournalExpert Systems with Applications
Early online date6 Apr 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Apr 2022


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