An In-depth Analysis of Passage-Level Label Transfer for Contextual Document Ranking

Koustav Rudra, Zeon Trevor Fernando, Avishek Anand

Recently introduced pre-trained contextualized autoregressive models like BERT have shown improvements in document retrieval tasks. One of the major limitations of the current approaches can be attributed to the manner they deal with variable-size document lengths using a fixed input BERT model. Common approaches either truncate or split longer documents into small sentences/passages and subsequently label them - using the original document label or from another externally trained model. In this paper, we conduct a detailed study of the design decisions about splitting and label transfer on retrieval effectiveness and efficiency. We find that direct transfer of relevance labels from documents to passages introduces label noise that strongly affects retrieval effectiveness for large training datasets. We also find that query processing times are adversely affected by fine-grained splitting schemes. As a remedy, we propose a careful passage level labelling scheme using weak supervision that delivers improved performance (3-14% in terms of nDCG score) over most of the recently proposed models for ad-hoc retrieval while maintaining manageable computational complexity on four diverse document retrieval datasets.

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