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The manual process to identifying causes of failure in distributed information systems is difficult and time-consuming. The underlying reason is the large size and complexity of these systems, and the vast amount of monitoring data they generate. Despite its high cost, this manual process is necessary in order to avoid the detrimental consequences of system downtime. Several studies and operator practice suggest that a large fraction of the failures in these systems are caused by recurrent faults. Therefore, significant efficiency gains can be achieved by automating the identification of these faults. In this work we present methods, which draw from the areas of information retrieval as well as machine learning, to automate the task of infering symptoms pertinent to failures caused by specific faults. In particular, we present a method to infer message types from plain-text log messages, and we leverage these types to train classifiers and extract rules to identify symptoms of recurrent faults automatically.