Retrieval-Augmented Language Modeling (RALM) methods, that condition a language model (LM) on relevant documents from a grounding corpus during generation, have been shown to significantly improve language modeling while also providing a natural source attribution mechanism. Existing RALM approaches focus on modifying the LM architecture in order to facilitate the incorporation of external information, significantly complicating deployment. This paper proposes an under-explored alternative, which we dub In-Context RALM: leaving the LM architecture unchanged and prepending grounding documents to the input. We show that in-context RALM which uses off-the-shelf general purpose retrievers provides surprisingly large LM gains across model sizes and diverse corpora. We also demonstrate that the document retrieval and ranking mechanism can be specialized to the RALM setting to further boost performance. We conclude that in-context RALM has considerable potential to increase the prevalence of LM grounding, particularly in settings where a pretrained LM must be used without modification or even via API access. To that end, we make our code publicly available.

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