Overcoming low-utility facets for complex answer retrieval

Sean MacAvaney, Andrew Yates, Arman Cohan, Luca Soldaini, Kai Hui, Nazli Goharian, Ophir Frieder

Many questions cannot be answered simply; their answers must include numerous nuanced details and additional context. Complex Answer Retrieval (CAR) is the retrieval of answers to such questions. In their simplest form, these questions are constructed from a topic entity (e.g., `cheese') and a facet (e.g., `health effects'). While topic matching has been thoroughly explored, we observe that some facets use general language that is unlikely to appear verbatim in answers. We call these low-utility facets. In this work, we present an approach to CAR that identifies and addresses low-utility facets. We propose two estimators of facet utility. These include exploiting the hierarchical structure of CAR queries and using facet frequency information from training data. To improve the retrieval performance on low-utility headings, we also include entity similarity scores using knowledge graph embeddings. We apply our approaches to a leading neural ranking technique, and evaluate using the TREC CAR dataset. We find that our approach perform significantly better than the unmodified neural ranker and other leading CAR techniques. We also provide a detailed analysis of our results, and verify that low-utility facets are indeed more difficult to match, and that our approach improves the performance for these difficult queries.

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