A method for retrieving information from a database includes pre-scoring each of a plurality of records in the database to determine their relevance to a particular item of interest, specifying at least one trait corresponding to a type of information sought to be retrieved, searching the database to derive a collection of records which satisfy the trait, and ordering the records in the first collection to identify the records most relevant to the item of interest. In order to further derive the most relevant records, a plurality of traits may be specified to effect multiple levels of searching. A predetermined number of the records may then be output without superfluous information, to increase the density, clarity, and coherency of the output. Records may then be selected for pursuit. A system and computer process implement one or more steps of the method.