Retrieval augmented generation use cases: Transforming data into insights

Emrecan Dogan

Head of Product

Retrieval augmented generation (RAG) is an artificial intelligence methodology that combines the power of neural language models with external knowledge resources to generate text that is relevant and informed. It fundamentally transforms how machines handle language-based tasks, pulling from vast databases to produce responses that aren't just coherent but contextually rich. This technology enables AI to access a broader knowledge base beyond its initial training data, allowing it to provide more precise and detailed information when completing a task.

Use cases for retrieval augmented generation are diverse, spanning several industries and applications. In customer service, RAG assists by sourcing product information and customer history to generate personalized responses, improving the efficiency and quality of support. In the field of law, these systems can search through case law and statutes to aid lawyers in legal research and drafting. The technology also bolsters content creation, where it can help journalists and writers by fetching pertinent facts and figures to enhance the depth and accuracy of the narratives they construct.

The integration of RAG allows for the AI to always work with fresh and relevant information. This makes it an invaluable tool in dynamic environments where information changes rapidly, like news, finance, and medical research. By tapping into the most recent data, AI systems maintain relevance and support decision-making processes with up-to-date insights, reflecting the current state of affairs in any given domain.

Foundations of retrieval augmented generation

Retrieval augmented generation (RAG) operates by integrating a retrieval component into the language generation process, expanding the model's knowledge base beyond its initial training data. RAG systems pull information from large databases or knowledge repositories, allowing them to supplement generated text with real-time, topic-specific information. This approach addresses the limitations of closed-book models by providing an adaptive framework that encompasses real-world knowledge and current events, which may not have been included in the original training datasets.

The key components of a RAG system include:

  1. A retrieval mechanism, which is responsible for sourcing relevant documents or facts from a given knowledge source.
  2. A language model, often pre-trained on a diverse set of text data, which generates coherent and context-appropriate responses.

The interaction between these two components allows RAG to produce outputs that are not only coherent but also factually accurate and informative.

Key technologies

Transformer architectures, such as BERT or GPT, are central to modern RAG systems due to their ability to handle complex language patterns and incorporate contextual information. Moreover, advances in vector space embeddings and indexing methods facilitate efficient document retrieval tailored to the specific prompts given to the language model.

Neural network-based retrievers are often employed, which assess the relevance of potential source documents to the query at hand. Improved retrieval algorithms have also allowed for more sophisticated ranking of information, ensuring that the most relevant facts are used for the generation process.

Machine learning frameworks, such as TensorFlow or PyTorch, are the backbones that support both the retrieval and generation components, providing a flexible environment for training, fine-tuning, and deploying RAG models. They offer a suite of tools to handle data processing, model training, and integration of different machine learning components seamlessly.

Applications in natural language processing

Retrieval augmented generation (RAG) significantly enhances the capabilities of natural language processing systems. It leverages vast corpora to produce more accurate and contextually relevant text outputs.

Machine translation

In machine translation, RAG systems utilize extensive bilingual text corpora to improve translation accuracy. They efficiently access parallel texts to offer translations that are contextually appropriate and grammatically correct. The inclusion of local idioms and expressions, often a challenge for machine translation, is more effectively managed with RAG due to its broader search capabilities.

Question answering

For question answering, RAG employs its retrieval component to source relevant information before generating a response. This allows for answers that integrate current, high-quality information tailored to the query. Moreover, the system can provide detailed explanations based on the most relevant documents it retrieves, rather than relying on fixed datasets.


In the realm of summarization, RAG contributes to generating concise and relevant summaries of long documents. By retrieving and attending to key pieces of text across the document, RAG can highlight the most important points in a coherent and condensed form. The ability to pull from diverse sections ensures summaries are well-rounded and cover critical aspects of the text.

Enhancements in conversational AI

Retrieval-augmented generation (RAG) technology significantly improves the responsiveness and accuracy of conversational agents. Here’s a few agents that deploys RAG systems to great effect:

Dialogue systems

A key application of RAG in dialogue systems is its ability to provide more contextually relevant and informative responses. When users interact with a system, it retrieves information from a vast knowledge base before generating a reply, ensuring the conversation is both natural and factually correct.

  • Contextual understanding: Systems use retrieved data to maintain context, reducing the likelihood of off-topic responses.
  • Dynamic knowledge: The integration of RAG allows systems to pull from updated databases, ensuring current information is utilized.

Personal assistants

RAG transforms personal assistants by expanding their capability to handle complex tasks and personalized requests.

  • Task handling: Assistants can provide step-by-step solutions to user queries by accessing a range of sources.
  • Personalization: They tailor interactions by referencing past user interactions, improving over time to form a comprehensive understanding of user preferences.

Through RAG, personal assistants evolve into proactive aides that anticipate needs and offer solutions without explicit user prompts.

Information retrieval improvements

Retrieval augmented generation has significantly enhanced the capabilities of information retrieval systems. Improved accuracy and relevance in retrieved results are now evident across various platforms. 

Search engines

Search engines have observed a marked advancement with the integration of retrieval augmented generation techniques. They now employ sophisticated algorithms to parse and understand queries better. The retrieval process is more efficient, often incorporating a broader context and understanding the intent behind search queries.

  • Precision: Search engines can now identify the relevance of results with greater precision, reducing the presence of irrelevant information.
  • Speed: Intelligent caching and indexing strategies have improved result delivery times.

Recommender systems

Recommender systems have similarly benefited from retrieval augmented generation, providing more personalized content suggestions. They analyze past user interactions to present items likely to be of interest.

  • Personalization: Adaptive models learn from user behavior to improve recommendation relevancy.
  • Diversity of content: Systems can better balance user preferences, offering a varied range of recommendations to enhance discovery.

Challenges and future work

In the domain of retrieval augmented generation systems, challenges such as bias in datasets, scalability of solutions, and ethical implications guide future work.

Addressing bias

Retrieval augmented generation systems often depend on large datasets. If these datasets contain biases, the systems are prone to propagate such biases in their outputs. Specific mitigation strategies include:

  • Creating balanced and diverse datasets
  • Implementing algorithmic solutions to identify and correct bias

Scalability issues

Scalability emerges as another challenge, with systems needing to handle increasingly large amounts of data. Solutions must address:

  • Enhancements in data storage and retrieval efficiency
  • Upgrades to computing infrastructure that support the growth

Ethical considerations

Ethically, these systems must be designed to maintain user trust and align with societal norms. Current tasks involve:

  • Ensuring transparency in how data is used and processed
  • Strict adherence to privacy laws and standards when handling personal data

Making the most of generative AI 

For workers looking to make the most of generative AI today without working through the troubling risks and complications of building their own, Glean provides a secure, transparent, and scalable solution. With the most robust retrieval solution on the market, along with a rich, robust, and scalable crawler connecting to all enterprise data and permissioning rules, Glean provides the most comprehensive and enterprise-ready AI solution on the market. Get started today by getting a Glean demo!


Related articles

No items found.
The AI-powered work assistant. Across all your company's data.
Get a Demo
CTA Section Background Shape