Generative Pseudo Labeling (GPL)

GPL is an unsupervised domain adaptation method for training dense retrievers. It is based on query generation and pseudo labeling with powerful cross-encoders. To train a domain-adapted model, it needs only the unlabeled target corpus and can achieve significant improvement over zero-shot models.

For more information, checkout our publication:


One can either install GPL via pip

pip install gpl

or via git clone

git clone && cd gpl
pip install -e .


GPL accepts data in the BeIR-format. For example, we can download the FiQA dataset hosted by BeIR:

head -n 2 fiqa/corpus.jsonl  # One can check this data format. Actually GPL only need this `corpus.jsonl` as data input for training.

Then we can either use the python -m function to run GPL training directly:

export dataset="fiqa"
python -m gpl.train \
    --path_to_generated_data "generated/$dataset" \
    --base_ckpt 'distilbert-base-uncased' \
    --batch_size_gpl 32 \
    --gpl_steps 140000 \
    --output_dir "output/$dataset" \
    --evaluation_data "./$dataset" \
    --evaluation_output "evaluation/$dataset" \
    --generator "BeIR/query-gen-msmarco-t5-base-v1" \
    --retrievers "msmarco-distilbert-base-v3" "msmarco-MiniLM-L-6-v3" \
    --cross_encoder "cross-encoder/ms-marco-MiniLM-L-6-v2" \
    --qgen_prefix "qgen" \
    --do_evaluation \
    # --use_amp   # Use this for efficient training if the machine supports AMP

# One can run `python -m gpl.train --help` for the information of all the arguments
# To reproduce the experiments in the paper, set `base_ckpt` to "GPL/msmarco-distilbert-margin-mse" (

or import GPL’s trainining method in a python script:

import gpl

dataset = 'fiqa'
    # base_ckpt='GPL/msmarco-distilbert-margin-mse',  # The starting checkpoint of the experiments in the paper
    retrievers=["msmarco-distilbert-base-v3", "msmarco-MiniLM-L-6-v3"],
    # --use_amp   # One can use this flag for enabling the efficient float16 precision

How does GPL work?

The workflow of GPL is shown as follows:

  1. GPL first use a seq2seq (we use BeIR/query-gen-msmarco-t5-base-v1 by default) model to generate queries_per_passage queries for each passage in the unlabeled corpus. The query-passage pairs are viewed as positive examples for training.

    Result files (under path $path_to_generated_data): (1) ${qgen}-qrels/train.tsv, (2) ${qgen}-queries.jsonl and also (3) corpus.jsonl (copied from $evaluation_data/);

  2. Then, it runs negative mining with the generated queries as input on the target corpus. The mined passages will be viewed as negative examples for training. One can specify any dense retrievers (SBERT or Huggingface/transformers checkpoints, we use msmarco-distilbert-base-v3 + msmarco-MiniLM-L-6-v3 by default) or BM25 to the argument retrievers as the negative miner.

    Result file (under path $path_to_generated_data): hard-negatives.jsonl;

  3. Finally, it does pseudo labeling with the powerful cross-encoders (we use cross-encoder/ms-marco-MiniLM-L-6-v2 by default.) on the query-passage pairs that we have so far (for both positive and negative examples).

    Result file (under path $path_to_generated_data): gpl-training-data.tsv. It contains (gpl_steps * batch_size_gpl) tuples in total.

Up to now, we have the actual training data ready. One can look at sample-data/generated/fiqa for a quick example about the data format. The very last step is to apply the MarginMSE loss to teach the student retriever to mimic the margin scores, CE(query, positive) – CE(query, negative) labeled by the teacher model (Cross-Encoder, CE). And of course, the MarginMSE step is included in GPL and will be done automatically:).

PS: The --retrievers are for negative mining. They can be any dense retrievers trained on the general domain (e.g. MS MARCO) and do not need to be strong for the target task/domain. Please refer to the paper for more details (cf. Table 5).

Customized data

One can also replace/put the customized data for any intermediate step under the path $path_to_generated_data with the same name fashion. GPL will skip the intermediate steps by using these provided data.


If you use the code for evaluation, feel free to cite our publication GPL: Generative Pseudo Labeling for Unsupervised Domain Adaptation of Dense Retrieval:

    title = "GPL: Generative Pseudo Labeling for Unsupervised Domain Adaptation of Dense Retrieval",
    author = "Kexin Wang and Nandan Thakur and Nils Reimers and Iryna Gurevych", 
    journal= "arXiv preprint arXiv:2112.07577",
    month = "4",
    year = "2021",
    url = "",

Contact person and main contributor: Kexin Wang, [email protected]

Don’t hesitate to send us an e-mail or report an issue, if something is broken (and it shouldn’t be) or if you have further questions.

This repository contains experimental software and is published for the sole purpose of giving additional background details on the respective publication.


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