Enhancing queries for information retrieval that automatically finds the preferred, first ranked matching term usage subject area (“TUSA”) from a prior query. The process automatically finds alternative TUSAs for the prior query, ranked by degree of match or preference, and provides an option to switch among the alternative TUSAs. It is required that a TUSA for the query be passively accepted or actively selected from a presented list based on the prior query. Using means prepared in advance from data sets of messages collected for each TUSA and general vocabulary the process also ranks and presents to the user alternative and additional query terms and phrases reflecting specificity and relevance to the query and the TUSA. Significantly relevant terms and phrases are presented for query refinement and ranked by relevance permitting the user to select and deselect query terms and effect a new search based on the enhanced query.