Many real-world problems involve data that both have complex structures and uncertainty. Statistical relational learning (SRL) is an emerging area of research that addresses the problem of learning from these noisy structured/relational data. Markov logic networks (MLNs), sets of weighted first-order logic formulae, are a simple but powerful SRL formalism that generalizes both first-order logic and Markov networks. MLNs have been successfully applied to a variety of real-world problems ranging from extraction knowledge from text to visual event recognition. Most of the existing learning algorithms for MLNs are in the generative setting: they try to learn a model that is equally capable of predicting the values of all variables given an arbitrary set of evidence; and they do not scale to problems with thousands of examples. However, many real-world problems in structured/relational data are discriminative---where the variables are divided into two disjoint sets input and output, and the goal is to correctly predict the values of the output variables given evidence data about the input variables. In addition, these problems usually involve data that have thousands of examples. Thus, it is important to develop new discriminative learning methods for MLNs that are more accurate and more scalable, which are the topics addressed in this thesis.

First, we present a new method that discriminatively learns both the structure and parameters for a special class of MLNs where all the clauses are non-recursive ones. Non-recursive clauses arise in many learning problems in Inductive Logic Programming. To further improve the predictive accuracy, we propose a max-margin approach to learning weights for MLNs. Then, to address the issue of scalability, we present CDA, an online max-margin weight learning algorithm for MLNs. Ater that, we present OSL, the first algorithm that performs both online structure learning and parameter learning. Finally, we address an issue arising in applying MLNs to many real-world problems: learning in the presence of many hard constraints. Including hard constraints during training greatly increases the computational complexity of the learning problem. Thus, we propose a simple heuristic for selecting which hard constraints to include during training.

Experimental results on several real-world problems show that the proposed methods are more accurate, more scalable (can handle problems with thousands of examples), or both more accurate and more scalable than existing learning methods for MLNs.

159 pages.