DOI: 10.1145/3637870 ISSN: 1046-8188

Dense Text Retrieval based on Pretrained Language Models: A Survey

Wayne Xin Zhao, Jing Liu, Ruiyang Ren, Ji-Rong Wen
  • Computer Science Applications
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Information Systems

Text retrieval is a long-standing research topic on information seeking, where a system is required to return relevant information resources to user’s queries in natural language. From heuristic-based retrieval methods to learning-based ranking functions, the underlying retrieval models have been continually evolved with the ever-lasting technical innovation. To design effective retrieval models, a key point lies in how to learn text representations and model the relevance matching. The recent success of pretrained language models (PLM) sheds light on developing more capable text retrieval approaches by leveraging the excellent modeling capacity of PLMs. With powerful PLMs, we can effectively learn the semantic representations of queries and texts in the latent representation space, and further construct the semantic matching function between the dense vectors for relevance modeling. Such a retrieval approach is called dense retrieval , since it employs dense vectors to represent the texts. Considering the rapid progress on dense retrieval, this survey systematically reviews the recent progress on PLM-based dense retrieval. Different from previous surveys on dense retrieval, we take a new perspective to organize the related studies by four major aspects, including architecture, training, indexing and integration, and thoroughly summarize the mainstream techniques for each aspect. We extensively collect the recent advances on this topic, and include 300+ reference papers. To support our survey, we create a website for providing useful resources, and release a code repository for dense retrieval. This survey aims to provide a comprehensive, practical reference focused on the major progress for dense text retrieval.

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