On Learning to Summarize with Large Language Models as References

Yixin Liu, Alexander R. Fabbri, PengFei Liu, Dragomir Radev, Arman Cohan

Recent studies have found that summaries generated by large language models (LLMs) are favored by human annotators over the original reference summaries in commonly used summarization datasets. Therefore, we investigate a new learning paradigm of text summarization models that considers the LLMs as the reference or the gold-standard oracle on commonly used summarization datasets such as the CNN/DailyMail dataset. To examine the standard practices that are aligned with the new learning setting, we propose a novel training method that is based on contrastive learning with LLMs as a summarization quality evaluator. For this reward-based training method, we investigate two different methods of utilizing LLMs for summary quality evaluation, namely GPTScore and GPTRank. Our experiments on the CNN/DailyMail dataset demonstrate that smaller summarization models trained by our proposed method can achieve performance equal to or surpass that of the reference LLMs, as evaluated by the LLMs themselves. This underscores the efficacy of our proposed paradigm in enhancing model performance over the standard maximum likelihood estimation (MLE) training method, and its efficiency since it only requires a small budget to access the LLMs. We release the training scripts, model outputs, and LLM-based evaluation results to facilitate future studies.

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