Query Reformulation using Query History for Passage Retrieval in Conversational Search

by   Sheng-Chieh Lin, et al.
University of Waterloo
National Chengchi University
Academia Sinica

Passage retrieval in a conversational context is essential for many downstream applications; it is however extremely challenging due to limited data resources. To address this problem, we present an effective multi-stage pipeline for passage ranking in conversational search that integrates a widely-used IR system with a conversational query reformulation module. Along these lines, we propose two simple yet effective query reformulation approaches: historical query expansion (HQE) and neural transfer reformulation (NTR). Whereas HQE applies query expansion, a traditional IR query reformulation technique, NTR transfers human knowledge of conversational query understanding to a neural query reformulation model. The proposed HQE method was the top-performing submission of automatic systems in CAsT Track at TREC 2019. Building on this, our NTR approach improves an additional 18 best entry in terms of NDCG@3. We further analyze the distinct behaviors of the two approaches, and show that fusing their output reduces the performance gap (measured in NDCG@3) between the manually-rewritten and automatically-generated queries to 4 from 22 points when compared with the best CAsT submission.


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