End-to-End Neural Ad-hoc Ranking with Kernel Pooling

Chenyan Xiong, Zhuyun Dai, Jamie Callan, Zhiyuan Liu, Russell Power

This paper proposes K-NRM, a kernel based neural model for document ranking. Given a query and a set of documents, K-NRM uses a translation matrix that models word-level similarities via word embeddings, a new kernel-pooling technique that uses kernels to extract multi-level soft match features, and a learning-to-rank layer that combines those features into the final ranking score. The whole model is trained end-to-end. The ranking layer learns desired feature patterns from the pairwise ranking loss. The kernels transfer the feature patterns into soft-match targets at each similarity level and enforce them on the translation matrix. The word embeddings are tuned accordingly so that they can produce the desired soft matches. Experiments on a commercial search engine's query log demonstrate the improvements of K-NRM over prior feature-based and neural-based states-of-the-art, and explain the source of K-NRM's advantage: Its kernel-guided embedding encodes a similarity metric tailored for matching query words to document words, and provides effective multi-level soft matches.

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