One embodiment of the present invention provides a system that uses faceted metadata to facilitate navigation through information resources. During operation, the system receives a query from a client at a server. The system then performs the query on metadata, wherein the metadata contains facets that describe characteristics of the information resources. While performing the query, the system generates results that identify information resources that satisfy the query. Next, the system constructs a response containing the results, the query, and suggestions on how to refine the query. The system then sends the response to the client, thereby allowing the client to refine the query. In this way, the client and server can work together in a stateless manner to refine the query without having to maintain state information about the query on the server.