Selected Topics in Question Answering

Seminar, 7 ECTS credits, Winter semester 2020/21

Basic Information

Course contents

In this seminar course, we will cover topics around automated question answering (QA) systems over knowledge graphs, text corpora, and heterogeneous sources. The last few years have seen an explosion of research on the topic of QA, spanning the communities of information retrieval, natural language processing, and artificial intelligence. Through this seminar, students will be able to describe and critique state-of-the-art approaches for question answering. More generally, they will gain experience in analyzing relevant scientific literature. We will compile a set of references that cover the key topics of active interest in the community, like complex QA, heterogeneous QA, and conversational QA. Topics will also include addressing key dimensions like user feedback, interpretability, unanswerability, and efficiency.

Lectures and assignments

There will be two introductory lectures where the various sub-topics and reviewing guidelines will be introduced. Attendance in both of these sessions is mandatory. Each student will be assigned two research papers on a topic. At the end of course, the student will have to write a short review on these papers and deliver a presentation, based on their understanding of the assigned topic. The presentations by the students will be as a block seminar spanning two days in December.


A basic knowledge of database management systems, information retrieval, natural language processing, and machine learning will be helpful. Additional knowledge of probability and statistics, linear algebra, and optimization techniques is reocmmended, but not absolutely necessary. The courses on Question Answering Systems (Summer Semester 2020) and Information Retrieval and Data Mining (Winter Semester 2019/20) are recommended but not mandatory.

Schedule and topics

LectureDate Topic
0103 November 2020Overview of QA
0210 November 2020Writing a good review
--Block seminar day 1
--Block seminar day 2


Tentative topics 

  • Multi-hop questions over KGs
  • Multi-hop questions over text
  • QA with structured queries
  • QA without explicit queries
  • Heterogeneous QA
  • Conversational KG-QA
  • Conversational text-QA
  • Incorporating user feedback
  • Interpretability 
  • Unanswerability
  • QA and recommendation
  • Reinforcement learning in QA
  • Recent benchmarks
  • Named entity recognition
  • Boolean QA
  • Cloze-style QA

The final list and associated reading material will be published once student allocation is finalized on 30 October 2020.