Recent studies show that large language models (LLMs) can be instructed to effectively perform zero-shot passage re-ranking, in which the results of a first stage retrieval method, such as BM25, are rated and reordered to improve relevance. In this work, we improve LLM-based re-ranking by algorithmically selecting few-shot demonstrations to include in the prompt. Our analysis investigates the conditions where demonstrations are most helpful, and shows that adding even one demonstration is significantly beneficial. We propose a novel demonstration selection strategy based on difficulty rather than the commonly used semantic similarity. Furthermore, we find that demonstrations helpful for ranking are also effective at question generation. We hope our work will spur more principled research into question generation and passage ranking.
The emerging paradigm of generative retrieval re-frames the classic information retrieval problem into a sequence-to-sequence modeling task, forgoing external indices and encoding an entire document corpus within a single Transformer. Although many different approaches have been proposed to improve the effectiveness of generative retrieval, they have only been evaluated on document corpora on the order of 100K in size. We conduct the first empirical study of generative retrieval techniques across various corpus scales, ultimately scaling up to the entire MS MARCO passage ranking task with a corpus of 8.8M passages and evaluating model sizes up to 11B parameters. We uncover several findings about scaling generative retrieval to millions of passages; notably, the central importance of using synthetic queries as document representations during indexing, the ineffectiveness of existing proposed architecture modifications when accounting for compute cost, and the limits of naively scaling model parameters with respect to retrieval performance. While we find that generative retrieval is competitive with state-of-the-art dual encoders on small corpora, scaling to millions of passages remains an important and unsolved challenge. We believe these findings will be valuable for the community to clarify the current state of generative retrieval, highlight the unique challenges, and inspire new research directions.
State-of-the-art neural models typically encode document-query pairs using cross-attention for re-ranking. To this end, models generally utilize an encoder-only (like BERT) paradigm or an encoder-decoder (like T5) approach. These paradigms, however, are not without flaws, i.e., running the model on all query-document pairs at inference-time incurs a significant computational cost. This paper proposes a new training and inference paradigm for re-ranking. We propose to finetune a pretrained encoder-decoder model using in the form of document to query generation. Subsequently, we show that this encoder-decoder architecture can be decomposed into a decoder-only language model during inference. This results in significant inference time speedups since the decoder-only architecture only needs to learn to interpret static encoder embeddings during inference. Our experiments show that this new paradigm achieves results that are comparable to the more expensive cross-attention ranking approaches while being up to 6.8X faster. We believe this work paves the way for more efficient neural rankers that leverage large pretrained models.
A document outlier is a document that substantially deviates in semantics from the majority ones in a corpus. Automatic identification of document outliers can be valuable in many applications, such as screening health records for medical mistakes. In this paper, we study the problem of mining semantically deviating document outliers in a given corpus. We develop a generative model to identify frequent and characteristic semantic regions in the word embedding space to represent the given corpus, and a robust outlierness measure which is resistant to noisy content in documents. Experiments conducted on two real-world textual data sets show that our method can achieve an up to 135% improvement over baselines in terms of recall at top-1% of the outlier ranking.